Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Movie Review: "Farewell Amor" (2020)

Movie poster for Ekwa Msangi's 2020 film "Farewell Amor" (2020)
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Movie"Farewell Amor"
Director: Ekwa Msangi
Year: 2020
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Many immigrants from war-torn countries seek refuge in the United States. Frequently, one family member, usually the patriarch, will come to the U.S. to try and become financially stable and set up a home before the rest of the family joins them stateside. Writer/director Ekwa Msangi explores one such situation in her film "Farewell Amor" (2020). After the end of the civil war in Angola, Walter (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine) left Africa for America so he could build a new life for his family. Little did he know he would be separated from his wife Esther (Zainab Jah) and their daughter Sylvia (Jayme Lawson) for 17 years before they would join him, and 17 years might as well be a lifetime. Esther and Sylvia are now practically strangers to Walter. Can they work together to overcome the literal and figurative distance that time has put between them?

At its core, "Farewell Amor" (2020) is about how Esther, Walter, and Sylvia have become drastically different people in the nearly two decades they have been apart. The story is told in three sections. Each portion focuses on a different member of the family. The first piece focuses on Walter, the second explores Sylvia's thoughts on coming to a new country to meet the father she doesn't know, and the final section focuses on Esther and the value shift she has gone through since Walter left Angola.

Ntare Mwine and Zainab Jah star in the 2020 movie "Farewell Amor"
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Living in America for 17 years is sure to change a person. Walter has moved on and had embraced much of the typical American lifestyle. He enjoys having a drink and dancing at clubs. Right up until his family arrived in America, he was even living with a nurse name Linda (Nana Mensah), whom he clearly loved dearly. For all intents and purposes, Walter had his own separate life without his family. Considering that Walter left Angola when Sylvia was just a baby, we think she has it the hardest of any of the characters in this story. Sylvia is a character in-limbo. She has been taken from everything she has ever known, only to be thrust into a new country to live with her father, who is a complete stranger to her. Her one passion and solace in life is dancing, though her ambitions to dance are thwarted by her mother at every turn. It is through dancing that Sylvia forges a new friendship with DJ (Marcus Scribner) and learns to connect to her father. Finally, the film shifts once more to focus on Esther, who spent her years engrossing herself in the church back at home and has become a religiously devout woman. Though it is never explicitly said, Esther's devoutness has become a point of contention between all three family members. She's critical about many things, including drinking and dancing, and she's even disapproving of Sylvia's friends from Angola. Esther also gives large sums of money to the church, money that could be used for getting necessities for the family, considering they live in a one-bedroom apartment in New York City. This clearly bothers Walter as he's barely saving enough as it is. Despite Walter's good intentions, Esther has been lost in the fray and must now make sense of the busy, different new world all around her.

Jayme Lawson and Ntare Mwine in a movie still for the film "Farewell Amor"
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My thoughts differ from BigJ's when it comes to "Farewell Amor" (2020). I found it to be a compelling immigrant character study, as well as an intriguing look at what it means to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to stick together as a family unit. It looks at the concept of American individualism versus maintaining a tight-knit community, as well as valuing doing what you love versus doing what is expected of you by your family. The acting is excellent from everyone involved, particularly Jayme Lawson, who gives a terrific first-time performance as Sylvia. BigJ felt that, because of its narrative structure, it lacked the spark he was looking for for it to be successful. He thought that, while there is definitely enough depth to make a feature film out of any one of the characters, by breaking it up, he only got a surface-level understanding of each of them rather than an in-depth understanding of one of them. We both agree that, because it is broken up into three smaller portions, we were left wanting a little more time to explore some of the aspects of Walter, Esther, and Sylvia's lives as individuals and as a cohesive unit. We do appreciate that the story explores the same time period from three different perspectives, but they didn't vary so much that this type of storytelling felt necessary. Still, this film left us excited to see what Ekwa Msangi will have to offer us in the future.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.6/10
RT Rating: ~100%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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