Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun


Divided by war. United by love.

Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and Thandie Newton (Crash) star in this drama, a chronicle of family ties and civil war. Set in Nigeria in the 1960s, two sisters return home after an English education as the violence of the Nigerian Civil War looms in the background. The feature debut from celebrated playwright Biyi Bandele.... More

Olanna (Newton) moves in with her politically-minded lover Odenigbo (Ejiofor) when she comes home to Nigeria, while her sister Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) falls for an Englishman studying the nation's arts. As Nigeria's independence becomes more than a subject of intellectual speculation and conflict erupts between different ethnic groups within the country, personal betrayals threaten to unravel familial and romantic ties.Hide

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Flicks Review

There’s a lot going for this on paper: a revered cast, with 12 Years a Slave star Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton in the leads; strong performances, particularly Onyka Onwenu in the role of Mama; solid background material in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel. But perhaps one of the characters sums it up best: “I feel as if I have been dropped into something I don’t entirely understand.”... More

Billing itself as a love story set against the backdrop of war, this $8m Nigerian film suffers a disconnect between the two, as though the romance could exist, quite comfortably, on a beach in California. It also suffers from a lack of love – and not just between the protagonists. As the atrocities of war rage on, the shock of its most awful crimes feels at odds with the soap opera treatment of the central characters’ personal dramas. You can’t blame war for being nasty to your girlfriend or sister.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s political history is explained through the use of historical black and white footage. This provides context but gives the film an educational feel, as director Biyi Bandele struggles to condense the multitude of the novel’s stories (hence the title, perhaps). Nor does it help that many of the characters are unlikeable, particularly the woefully passive Richard. But the film’s biggest flaw is its clunky screenplay. The dialogue is so on the nose, its stars have no choice but to overplay every line.Hide

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The Press Reviews

58% of critics recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes Score. More reviews on Rotten Tomatoes

  • Rather frothy... Limiting insight to the upper classes of the Igbo and little else – with rather quaint newsreels to plugs the gaps – feels misguided. Full Review

  • Newton and Ejiofor elevate this lush if fundamentally soapy tale of a family surviving the Nigerian civil war. Full Review

  • Attractive adaptation... a diverting but surface-level saga that, true to its title, feels less than whole. Full Review

  • A clunky, clumsy handling of a book with (here untapped) depth. Full Review

  • It uses all kinds of elements to buttress this series of personal stories and for me it was quite an epic... the performances were very good. Full Review

  • Bravely takes on too broad a canvas with too narrow a budget, but it’s a relevant saga that’s worth telling. Full Review

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