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Half of a Yellow Sun

HD   R Closed Captioning

Biyi Bandele

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About the Movie

Olanna (Thandie Newton) and Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) are glamorous twins from a wealthy Nigerian family. Upon returning to a privileged city life in newly independent 1960s Nigeria after their expensive English education, the two women make very different choices. Olanna shocks her family by going to live with her lover, the “revolutionary professor” Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his devoted houseboy Ugwu (John Boyega) in the dusty university town of Nsukka; Kainene turns out to be a fiercely successful businesswoman when she takes over the family interests, and surprises even herself when she falls in love with Richard (Joseph Mawle), an English writer. Preoccupied by their romantic entanglements, and a betrayal between the sisters, the events of their life seem to loom larger than politics. However, they become caught up in the events of the Nigerian civil war, in which the lgbo people fought an impassioned struggle to establish Biafra as an independent republic, ending in chilling violence which shocked the entire world. A sweeping romantic drama, Half of a Yellow Sun takes the sisters and their lovers on a journey through the war which is powerful, intensely emotional and, as the response of readers around the world has shown, is a story which can touch everyone’s heart.

Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews


  • Reviews Counted: 47
  • Fresh: 24
  • Rotten: 23
  • Average Rating: 5.6/10

Top Critics' Reviews

Rotten: A well-acted, finely wrought epic that nevertheless struggles to balance the requirements of melodrama with its drive to capture a historical moment. – Ben Kenigsberg, New York Times, May 15, 2014

Rotten: It's just not stirring enough as historical drama. – Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times, May 23, 2014

Fresh: Half of a Yellow Sun strikes an admirable balance between drama and history. – Pete Vonder Haar, Village Voice, May 13, 2014

Fresh: The best of the movie finds a way to abridge the novel and still allow the scenes to breathe. – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune, Jul 31, 2014

Read More About This Movie On Rotten Tomatoes

Customer Reviews

read the novel

I love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the author of the book that this movie is based on, for her lovely, deep, accurate, honest and gripping books and speeches. One thing she has indeed truly championed is her way of telling multi-faceted stories in such a way that we as readers can see the human side of sensitive subject matters such as "race", "Africa", immigration, gender and even (civil) war, the framework for her book and this movie.

While her novel "Half of a Yellow Sun" helped me greatly to connect with the Nigerian characters and their issues, thoughts, dreams and hopes, I believe the movie adaption fails badly in creating this kind of emotional connection. I couldn't put the the book down, yet the movie left me wanting. Here are some specifics:

- The love stories are not that touching:
Especially the relationship between Richard (a British) and Kainene is presented in a rather odd way. While I bought into their relationship in the novel, Richard's overly awkward and shy presentation in the movie made the "love" between these two seem strange and not believable.
Olanna, the protagonist, was giving me too much drama and sobbing. She has her struggles and outbursts in the novel, yes, but not to this extent. When I was in Nigeria myself, most women seemed more tough-skinned than her. Maybe the British actress Thandie Newtwon (playing Olanna) has not been exposed to Nigerian life that much. Her up-and-down love story with the "revolutionary lover" does not seem as exciting and charming as the movie attempts to portray it.

- The characters are too flat:
The personal, emotional and intellectual development of Ugwu, their houseboy, is shockingly lacking in the movie. The novel provides some great insights into his life and mind, but in the movie he is a mere peripheral figure - making Olanna's mourning over his supposed death appear not quite convincing. In my opinion, most characters lacked the depth to truly connect with them, even the protagonists.

- The dynamics between the twin sisters are not as nuanced as in the novel. In the adaption, they are just jolly sisters going through thick and thin, an old trope not representing the experience of many siblings.

On the positive side, we get:

- great performances by some actors: Particularly candid Kainene and Odenigbo's rather traditional mother truly "become alive".
- Good insights into the war and the political situation: Maps are shown, the basic tribal conflicts are explained and the original video material (e.g. old BBC news) made the war and the political situation come alive. However, the specifics of this particular war (life in a refugee camp, kwashiorkor (malnutrition) and its public representation in the Western world) don't become evident (they do in the novel though).
- At the same time, I give credit to the producer for not showing too many war scenes: I am tired of gruesome "African" war movies (such as "Tears of the Sun") so I was thankful that the novel as well as the movie focused on individual human beings being caught up in the war instead of stoic heroes saving the dark continent.

Maybe I am too critical, expecting too much from a movie adaption. Adichie's novel is an epic work covering many different characters and issues. The movie adaption deals with many of these people and themes only on the surface; thereby failing to create the "heartfelt" and intimate connection Adichie so wonderfully establishes in her novels. Aside from that, it is a good solid and educating movie about a country and a people during a civil war; no more, no less.

half of a yellow sun

This is a simply splendid re-tale of pivotal history in Nigeria though the lens of real characters. Well done. In the customer review, Uncle Sebbi suggests that the main female protagonist Olana did not appear to be a true reflection of a Nigerian woman. However I would have to disagree. I am a Nigerian female and know that Nigerian women like most women globally come with different personalities. In essence I would have to say the actresses did well. However, I was slightly disappointed that Nigerian actresses did not play the two main female characters. There are numerous Nigerian actresses that are equally as skilled. I have not read the novel but I’m sure it’ll be more in-depth as most written literature/novel tend to be when compared to their movie rendition. In short this was a very well done movie.

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Half of a Yellow Sun
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  • $9.99
  • Genre: Action & Adventure
  • Released: 2014

Customer Ratings