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MOVIES: Farewell Amor - Review (LFF 2020)

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Writer-director Ekwa Msangi’s feature debut is an intimate, powerful and instantly memorable portrayal of a family's struggles of reconnection and reunion, focusing around an Angolan family of three who finally reunite in America after being separated for seventeen years and find themselves having to share a one-bedroom apartment despite having become total strangers. Seventeen years is a long time to wait for somebody, and it soon becomes clear in Farewell Amor that even the strongest of bonds is going to be tested by time.

The film goes out of its way to showcase the difficulty that characters face in belonging, not just to a family but to a country. The emphatic nature of this film extends to every main character, nobody is presented as villainous (although their actions may easily be seen as such) or one-dimensional and you learn everything about the family at the centre of Farewell Amor by the end, what makes them tick, their shared love of dance, their differences and their affairs. The central quartet of Marcus Scribner (Black-ish), Jayme Lawson (next appearing in The Batman), Ntare Mwine (The Chi) and Zainab Jah all knock it out of the park with their performances – Lawson especially as the importance of losing her home and everything Slyvia knows comes to light to light over the film. Stranded in America is no easy experience for its two newest arrivals and the promises of personal hopes and dreams quickly collide with the ambitions that her parents have set out for her. The battle that Sylvia, the daughter, treads between her parents’ expectations and her love of dance is instantly reminiscent of Miss Juneteenth, which featured a daughter trying to struggle to achieve her dreams instead of following her parents’ ambitions, and it’s a conflict ripe for exploration that Farewell Amor achieves most successfully.

Stylish, beautiful and visually brilliant, Farewell Amor makes the most out of the vibrant colours at the heart of the local community depicted in the film. Every frame of this drama feels alive, bustling with creative passion and energy, and the lack of an overt sentimentality plays strongly in its favour. With all the focus on the three core characters however, the supporting cast often fall to the wayside, as despite good performances, Scribner’s character, a love interest for Sylvia, doesn’t get anywhere near as much depth as she does. But then again I would not want to sacrifice any of the development that Msangi spends with the core cast as it plays to the script so well, with the film really coming alive when the characters bond over their shared obsession in dance.

Although Farewell Amor drags in its middle act it shines by its ending, coming together for one of the most emotional films of the year so far. It hits every beat, challenging audiences expectations in favour of an effective story that feels incredibly personal. As a debut – it’s a strong one, with the three-way narrative arc not always working but giving way for some strong thematic ideas that absolutely pay off by the end that rewards a continued investment.

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