Based on the Orange Prize for Fiction winning novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun was always going to be a difficult novel to adapt. Indeed, whilst director Biyi Bandele makes a good fist of it, the source material is not suited to a big screen adaptation. However, the impressive case lead by Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor ensure that Bandele’s film is an impressively observed drama.
Set in the 1960s around the time of Nigerian independence, sisters Olanna (Thandie Newton) and Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) return to their respectable family in Nigeria after completing their education in England. Changed by their experience they both make decisions that shock their family. Olanna moves in with her lover, a revolutionary professor Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his houseboy Ugwu (John Boyega). Kainene takes over the family interests and pursues a career as a businesswoman, falling in love with Richard (Joseph Mawle), an English writer. A few years later, as the Igbo people struggle to establish Biafra as an independent republic, they all become caught up in the violence of the Nigerian Civil War.
Half of a Yellow Sun is a family drama set to the backdrop of war, and as a cinematic spectacle it comes to life during the latter wartime segments. In the first half the story moves between just before independence and the start of the Biafran War, and the drama is slow and ponderous. The second half is much more engaging as the main characters find their lives ripped apart by the conflict.
Half of a Yellow Sun is released on Blu-ray and DVD by Soda Pictures on August 4.