In Guava Island, Donald Glover fully embraces his musical moniker, Childish Gambino, to do Beyonce’s Lemonade-ing on his own style. Directed by Glover’s frequent collaborator, Hiro Murai, who has been working on his music videos (including the recent phenomenon, This Is America) and his self-conceived series Atlanta, this 55-minute feature is another invention in Glover’s never-ending artistry. Premiering at Coachella (followed by a limited Amazon Prime distribution), this short feature might be a career celebration or, else, a hint on what Glover would do in the future about his music, acting, and writing career.
Set in the titular Caribbean island, Glover portrays Deni Maroon, a folk hero—who sings and performs live on the radio. He plays alongside Rihanna who portrays Deni’s love interest and source of inspiration, Kofi Novia. When not dabbling on his artistry, Deni would go, along with other everyone else in the island, is forced to work 7 days a week for local dictator, Red Cargo (Nonso Anozie). The conflict revolves around Deni’s attempt to throw a vibrant music festival to ease the islanders from the burden of work; it’s something that ignites Red’s anger.
Guava Island features several Gambino’s notable songs, which was recreated and re-calibrated to entice the island nuance. Most notably, Glover re-purposes “This Is America” to fit to the movie’s theme and re-choreograph it to establish Deni Maroon as some sort of rebel leader. On some of the movie’s memorable moments, Glover also picks audiences interest with some summer-y ambiance of “Summertime Magic” or “Feels Like Summer” and original island-vibe worthy new songs, including a propaganda song for Red Cargo. For fans alike, the amount of songs in Guava Island might seem too little; yet, for casual viewers, the number is enough given the short duration and the amount of narrative that keeps the movie progressing.
Given the experience of working together in several media, Murai knows pretty well how to emanate Glover’s artistry. Murai’s creative vision makes his feature debut not like a prolonged music video, but a narrative body adorned with good music. Framed with square aspect ratio with warm color palette, there’s some sort of nostalgic feeling sparkles, especially with the Caribbean vibes. Under Murai’s direction, Guava Island just like Atlanta can be uplifting at some points, but it can also be violent at some other times.
Rihanna’s acting might slightly improve from her latest tenure; but, still, she’s drowning in comparison with her co-stars, including Letitia Wright or Nonso Anozie. One of the biggest source of disappointment would be: there’s not a single second of Rihanna’s singing moment. However, there’s an enchanting charm from her presence that makes the whole Guava Island and Deni Maroon’s struggle feels magical and joyful.
Guava Island (2019)
Music, Comedy, Thriller Directed by: Hiro Murai Written by: Donald Glover, Stephen Glover, Ibra Ake, Jamal Olori, Fam Uderoji Starred by: Donald Glover, Rihanna, Letitia Wright, Nonso Anozie Runtime: 55 minutes