“Farewell Amor” is as thoughtful as it is tense. Directed by Ekwa Msangi, it is a slice of life film about an African family from Angola trying to maintain stability between clashes from the East and West and differing cultural perspectives. Although it is a romantic drama it is also anxious and its brisk pace puts the story on the level of a suspense film.
Mother and daughter Esther (Zainab Jah) and Sylvia (Jayme Lawson) are about to reunite in New York with husband and father Walter (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine) after 17 years apart due to civil war in Angola.
Walter wants to do his best but after almost two decades he is a stranger. Esther is very religious while Walter is not and Sylvia just wants to dance and achieve some notoriety.
For the first few days things go relatively smoothly but then Walter moves to the bathroom to recover some recently used sheets that carry the imprint of his girlfriend Linda (Nana Mensah) and her specific perfume. Sylvia becomes driven to join a dance competition after meeting the soft spoken and gentle DJ (Marcus Scribner from TV’s Blackish).
Esther lashes out, blaming the devil and grounding Sylvia with repetitions of Bible verses. In other films, this aspect could well be played for melodrama or satire but here it is one hundred percent authentic and grounded in reality.
Esther attempts to put her reservations aside and the two of them go out to dinner, but during subsequent love-making, Esther unknowingly puts Linda’s sheets on the bed and Walter loses his mood for Esther. Understandably, she is shattered.
The film is a study in gesture as well as dialogue. One can see the guilt upon Walter’s face, an illustration in wear and worry, much like a secular Christ figure. Right up until the last, Walter’s actions are uncertain.
Esther becomes more and more panicked about the threat of a non-religious world but she is never unhinged. At times, Esther’s spiritual plight feels akin to “Rosemary’s Baby” when she is convinced by the sensual and swearing neighbor Nzingha (Joie Lee) to try a different grocery store. Events seem to conspire against Esther, who yearns for spiritual equilibrium.
The push of the non-religious world versus a religious one is symbolized by Sylvia’s neon blue dance boots that catapult the teenager into the realm of mystery, self expression and a new awareness at odds with religion. Sylvia transforms into a David Bowie persona moving in alternate motion, an alien to her conservative mother.
It is Walter, an earthly replacement of Christ who strives to bring Esther and Sylvia together.
This is an emotive and deftly crafted film about two clashes of culture and a family with alternate beliefs, trying to hold together.
As the Tropic reopens with caution, please familiarize yourself with the protective house rules and procedures. In particular, please note that all tickets must be purchased online. Got questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Write Ian at email@example.com