REEL Review – Guava Island (2019)

Guava Island (2019)

Director: Hiro Mirai | Runtime: 55mins | Comedy, Drama, Music

Deni Maroon (Donald Glover) plans to hold a music festival for the people on Guava Island. But when the festival interferes with the working hours of Red Cargo (Nonso Anozie), a business man who basically controls the island, Deni’s life is put at risk.

Donald Glover has had the uncanny ability to create anything he’s put his mind to in the past few years. Becoming an international music sensation in the form of Childish Gambino, or creating the critically acclaimed comedy with HBO’s Atlanta, and while both persona’s have kept there distance from one another, Glover allows the two to collide in his newest artistic venture, Guava Island. Along with his brother, Stephen Glover, and his long-time director Hiro Mirai, the group bring to life the power of artistic creation and imagination.

Guava Island is quick to show us the chemistry that runs throughout it’s people, as we find ourselves running from place to place, person to person, with Glover as his perpetual lateness gets the better of him. In many respects these opening scenes do so well to build heart and soul early, and while the film is pretty focused on artistic creativity and freedom these lively individuals we see are the ones that really speak volumes about a dictatorship-like Island. After we are introduced to the people, the story really begins to kick in, with Deni forever moving from job to job all on his quest to save this lost-paradise and give the people something to enjoy. It’s a tale old as time, translated from many different genres and individuals, trying to capture a little bit of heart and soul that feels lost in the world. Pablo Larrain’s NO (2012) uses the political edge of it’s true story, whereas Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940) strives for monologuing about freedom to really sell it’s message. Luckily, Guava Island’s strict regime dodges a lot of cliches, and with such palpable charisma on screen from Glover and Rihanna, along with beautiful scenery, this film finds it’s feet and stands tall with individuality.

For every great artistic individual however, there is a line. A line that once crossed, will send their work into self-justifying pretentiousness. Christopher Nolan’s past few films for instance, have been accused of crossing such a line, pushing too much and creating merely for his own ego. Or even the work of the great Bob Fosse, who made his name with stunning choreography and direction, danced elegantly along this line but managed to never cross it. But if you have the talent to do such a thing, something that Guava Island and Glover possess, I say why not flaunt it? Spending the majority of the film being a passionate love letter to music, using Childish Gambino’s more recent music to hit that home, doesn’t feel pretentious. Despite each song visually feeling like a music video, each one has their place in the story built around them. This is America’s already strong message is transferred to the idolisation of the American dream, while Summertime Magic is used to bring chemistry and balance to the relationship of Deni and his girlfriend, Kofi.

Although its still unsure what the purpose of Guava Island is (you could argue it’s to promote Childish Gambino for his Coachella headline), Glover surrounds himself with enough talent from both of his worlds to create a strong, musically driven, message for this film. And if there isn’t anything here for you story wise, then at least it combines the two personas of Glover to justifiably prove why he is one of the biggest talents working today.


Rating: 4 out of 5.


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