Farewell Amor’s opening scene, a man clutching flowers at an airport as his long-awaited family arrives from Tanzania, is – on first impression – a classic starting point for a story of immigration and reunion. Yet as the film unfolds, and this moment intermittently replays from his wife and daughter’s perspectives, an aching complexity is lent to this recognisable narrative. Walter, the father, experiences his daughter as distant and closed off, while she recalls their first embrace with nervous optimism. The shots of New York from their car look alternately looming and familiar. Revelling in the subtlety of subjectivity, writer-director Ekwa Msangi moulds Farewell Amor into a different type of immigration story – one that understands arrival as the midpoint in a constant process of adaptation, even amongst those you already know and love.

Msangi’s focus is tight on this small family, and the performances rise to meet her demands. Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine in particular shines as the gentle Walter, trying his utmost to care for his family despite the love and loss he has felt in these 17 years of separation. Enclosed in a tiny apartment, the scenes between the three unravel as a sort of choreography, each tentatively stepping around and closer to the others as their relationships bind and unravel. The dialogue is similarly intentional; although this is at times overly in service of exposition, it largely works to underline the conscious, deliberate ways in which this family perform love amidst uncertainty.

Farewell Amor makes no explicitly political statements, yet every instance of alienation and endurance among these three lovable characters is a radical push back against a discourse that has long erased the nuance of their experiences. Assured and quietly triumphant, this is filmmaking that recognises the empathetic possibilities of cinema, crafting a story that is resounding in its intimacy.

RATING: 4/5


INFORMATION

CAST: Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, Zainab Jah, Jayme Lawson

DIRECTOR: Ekwa Msangi

WRITER: Ekwa Msangi

SYNOPSIS: An Angolan family are reunited in New York 17 years after the father first immigrated, and struggle to navigate the new distance between them.

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