Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel is tansfered somewhat awkwardly to screen in this rather mundane and at times tedious adaptation by first-time writer-director Biyi Bandele. Of course, for a debut feature, it could be argued that Bandele has done quite an impressive job, and it’s true that he directs with confidence and maturity. However, there is a distinct lack of visual style (such a pity, considering the lush imagery the setting of Nigeria has to offer) and in the end the drama starts to grow dull.
The film, like the book, concentrates on the Nigerian civil war, resulting in the creation of the Republic of Biafra between 1967 and 1970. As we learn throughout the story, this caused tensions, both political and domestic, for the inhabitants at the time. British actors Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor play a couple clearly in love, though hampered by various issues (including infidelity and political activism). We follow them throughout the film as violence enters their lives and they are forced to move around the country to avoid the more serious areas of unrest.
The movie is shot unimaginatively, in a way that reminded me of some rather flat and stuffy television dramas I have seen: the type that come in two parts, have larger-than-normal budgets, funding from the States and are usually sponsored by Viking River Cruises. There’s nothing truly awful here, and the acting is perfectly fine, but for such a much-praised, well-loved novel as Half of a Yellow Sun, I had hoped for a film a bit more memorable than this.
Half of a Yellow Sun (2013), directed by Biyi Bandele, is showing as part of the BFI London Film Festival this October. It has yet to receive an official UK release date.