The year 2020 will go down in history for many reasons—mostly negative—but it has delivered something worth celebrating: phenomenal debut feature films from a host of female directors. From Radha Blank’s The Forty-Year-Old Version and Autumn de Wilde’s Emma to The Crown star Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman and Channing Godfrey Peoples’ Miss Juneteenth, female directors have delivered some of the year’s best films. You can now add Ekwa Msangi and her compelling drama Farewell Amor to that list.
Farewell Amor‘s story begins at airport arrivals, where families meet and embrace in a scene that feels like a relic from the “before times”. Charismatic New York City taxi driver Walter (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine) is an Angolan immigrants who left his wife and daughter behind in search of a better life for them all. Now, after spending 17 years apart, the family is finally reunited in a simple one-bedroom apartment. Virtual strangers after so many years apart, pious wife Esther (Zainab Jah) and teenage daughter Sylvia (Jayme Lawson) struggle to adjust not only to their new family unit, but to a new city, new culture, and a host of new customs.
Told through three very different perspectives, Msangi paints a gentle and empathetic picture of a husband caught between the past and present, a religious wife guided by her faith, and a teenager who yearns to dance. Msangi eschews the trauma and struggles these characters have suffered in the past, and instead focuses on the present—delivering a delicate, intergenerational look at family that offers audiences the one thing we could all use more of in 2020, hope.
One of the most remarkable things about the character-driven drama is how well it tells a story that is both specific to the Central African immigrant experience and wholly universal, no matter where your roots may lie.
An intimate and well-paced story, Farewell Amor‘s strength lies not just in the crux of its quiet family drama, but also in the excellent performances of her small cast. These roles feel lived-in and, with minimal backstory and dialogue, each actor turns what they have been given into a work of art—most notably Lawson. Young Sylvia struggles as she tries to adjust to the normal trials and tribulations of teen life while simultaneously trying to adjust to life now that their mother-daughter unit has added a third. Lawson’s take on Sylvia is truly mesmerizing and it’s easy to see why Variety named her one of their breakout stars of 2020.
Universally accessible and appealing, Farewell Amor is a launchpad for both Lawson and Msangi that will have viewers yearning to see what’s in store for both talents.
Farewell Amor premiered at Sundance in January and is now available for rent on VOD in Canada.