Our world is constantly changing around us in numerous forms. Among all this change we tend to neglect the ever changing cultural shift within our society and others around the globe. Everything goes by in a blink of an eye with focus easily lost on matters that do not concern us. There are countless untold stories that share a number of similarities, especially those concerning immigrants. Individuals forced out of their homes looking for refuge, families having to adapt to brand new surroundings and new means of living; these situations are the shared experiences of many. In writer/director Ekwa Msangi’s new film Farewell Amor Msangi tells the story of an East African family reuniting in New York City after being separated for 17 years.
Based on Msangi’s 2016 short film Farewell Meu Amor, Walter, played by Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine (The Chi, Treme), welcomes his wife and teenage daughter home to the “big city”. As a taxi driver Walter’s income is limited and what should be a momentous occasion is overshadowed by doubts, regrets and hidden secrets. Financial issues are not Walter’s main concern though because unlike his wife who has not been with anyone since Walter, he is coming out of a relationship still holding onto lingering feelings for his former love Linda, played by Nana Mensah (13 Reasons Why, New Amsterdam). Walter’s wife Esther, played by Zainab Jah (Deep State), is ecstatic upon arriving and finally being reunited with her husband but her expectations soon dissipate. Their daughter Sylvia, played by Jayme Lawson, has her own issues already with her overbearing religious mother, a father she hardly knows and aspirations she is deeply afraid to follow. Msangi approaches the film in chapters giving each family member’s perspectives of ongoing events until the final act in which all their stories come together. The film hits multiple plot points and with so much going on it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle but Msangi does an exquisite job weaving these stories together. The magic does not belong to Msangi alone though as she had a very talented cast of actors that each gave an extreme depth to their characters.
Walter, Esther and Sylvia’s stories each explore the pain they are experiencing while each wearing a veil lying to each other. Each performance is endearing and filled with an internal struggle that radiates off the screen. The film also provides meaningful co-stars in Esther’s neighbor Nazingha, played by Joie Lee (Crooklyn, Do The Right Thing), and Sylvia’s high school crush DJ, played by Marcus Scribner (Black-ish). They each add an extra layer to both Esther and Sylvia that each pushes their characters further. It is Lawson as Sylvia though that powers through as the real scene stealer; an even bigger compliment considering it is her acting debut with her next role coming in the upcoming The Batman. Her inner battle to obey her mother or to follow her dream of dance could be seen as something out of Footloose but Msangi handles her journey as something more spiritual and deep within. The story of this East African immigrant family is something of a fairy tale that offers a loving warm embrace that is synonymous this time of year and should be sought out.
3.5 out of 5
Film is available via YouTube Movies
Follow the Film: