Movie Review – Guava Island

TL;DR – A beautiful work on the power of music to shape the world     

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Guava Island. Image Credit: Amazon Studios.


There are a lot of things music can be, it can move you, it can move people, and it can move countries. There is the real power in music and throughout the years we have seen the power of music to shape the ideas and the structures that control people’s lives. With that in mind, today we take a look at something a little experimental, but also a little subversive, and also a little fun.

So to set the scene, we open with animation about the world we live in, Guava Island. The island was originally created by the gods to be a resting place for humans from the war that rages around. However, on the island, special blue silk was found and soon one man Red Cargo (Nonso Anozie) had taken it for himself and industrialised the whole island to produce the silk for export. However, all is not lost on Guava Island because one day a girl Kofi (Rihanna) looked out her window and saw a boy Deni (Donald Glover) playing his guitar and every night after that he played all night for her, always trying to get better.

Guava Island. Image Credit: Amazon Studios.
The setting for our film today, Guava Island. Image Credit: Amazon Studios.

This is one film that I think people are going to have a hard time classifying because I’m not sure where it sits in the film landscape. Is it a musical? Is it an extended Childish Gambino music video? Is it a long short film, or a short long film? Yes to all of these, but also no, because that would be oversimplifying it. The closest I can get is that it is similar to Daft Punk’s Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem but with more of a focus on the narrative beats between the songs.   

The film builds a rich world first through a beautiful stylised animated sequence and then through some clever set design and location work. It is a world that has texture to it, and you feel it before a single beat of the music is played, and then very much as the music plays. It also is a world grounded in reality, because this is a story that would be very familiar to those who lives in parts of the Caribbean and Latin America. Places filled with beauty that the people can’t experience because they are stuck in destructive jobs that take their lives.

Guava Island. Image Credit: Amazon Studios.
Donald Glover shows once again his dramatic and comedic talents. Image Credit: Amazon Studios.

All Deni wants is to have a festival where people can have fun and in that moment be free, but this is a threat to the power structures on the island that depends on cheap constant labour to keep everything moving. This is a power structure that has no qualms using children as enforcers and whose notion of wanting the ‘best for everyone’ actually is just wanting the ‘best for me.’ It is a power structure that is both grounded in the setting but also something that we experience everywhere in the world in this time of unchecked capitalism.

There is a connection between Donald and Rhianna that really works in this film. There is some beautiful banter, and I love me some good banter. You feel their connection, which is really important for how the narrative develops throughout the film. Anozie has an incredible presence as Red Cargo the dictator of Guava Island, with every word there is the notion of it being backed up by the security apparatus that he controls, as the posters say ‘Red Sees You.’ It was also great to get some more Letitia, and even though it is a small part, it is clear that she was having a lot of fun with it.

Guava Island. Image Credit: Amazon Studios.
There is an instant connection between our two leads that is important as the film develops. Image Credit: Amazon Studios.

This is a film that slips between the real and a sort of magical reality where people will all of a sudden join up in perfect unison to be back up dancers to a song that is playing out in front of them. However, it never suffers from tonal whiplash because of the talents of the writers and because a lot of work has gone into the staging and the choreography of the musical numbers that it all feels maybe not real, but that it was meant to be. This is all helped by Donald’s natural charisma but it also is a good reminder that he has some real dramatic ability, as well as comedic.

In the end, do we recommend Guava Island? Yes, yes we do. Now at the time of writing, it was streaming free on Amazon and if you catch it in this window then completely it is worth the watch. Afterwards when it is gated off, well, that’s up to you, but I would still recommend checking it out.     

By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.

Have you watched Guava Island?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.

Credits –
All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Guava Island
Directed by – Hiro Murai
Story by – Ibra Ake, Donald Glover, Stephen Glover, Jamal Olori & Fam Udeorji
Screenplay by – Stephen Glover
Music by – Michael Uzowuru
Cinematography by – Christian Sprenger
Edited by – Isaac Hagy
Production/Distribution Companies – Regency Enterprises & Amazon Studios.
– Donald Glover, Rihanna, Letitia Wright & Nonso Anozie
Rating – Australia: M;

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