STARRING: Donald Glover, Rihanna, Nonso Anozie and Letitia Wright
A tropical thriller that casts Donald Glover as a musician with designs on pulling off a scheme to rob his way into the good life, which quickly gets him in over his head.
Guava Island is a musical focusing on Deni Maroon, a musician and local celebrity on the island that is determined to throw a festival for the community, though the island’s local businessman and tyrant Red Cargo is not looking for the festival to go ahead as he believes people won’t come into work the next day so advises Deni to cancel the festival….or else.
Guava Island is a musical drama written by Stephen Glover, starring Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino and Rihanna, and also marks the directorial feature debut of Hero Murai, known for directing episodes of Legion, Barry, Atlanta, as well as direct Gambino’s ‘This Is America’ music video. Set on the fictional island known as Guava Island, we follow Deni Maroon, a musician that works every day of the week like everyone else on the island. He plans to open a music festival that plays long into the night, brining the entire community together. The businessman and tyrant of the island, Red Cargo, doesn’t want the festival to go ahead as he believes people will take the day off so he decides to get Deni to cancel it….by any means.
I thought Murai’s direction here was great, from the first live-action sequence involving Deni trying to get from one location to another in order to get to the radio station to perform jingles for the local business where ‘Red’s cargo is the best cargo’. It showcases how Deni goes on with the community, especially in a seen when a group of kids try to rob him for money that he doesn’t have and how he talks them down. The film was shot on location in Cuba and the island is captured really well by cinematographer Christian Sprenger. Donald Glover is charming as Deni, especially his interacting with people and Rihanna’s Kofi, a musician that’s looking to create an escape for the community and give them the belief of escapism as they clearly live in paradise, don’t they’re never given the time to enjoy it. The music works really well here I thought, particularly the ‘This Is America’ reprise for the most part when talking to a fellow co-worker who dreams of making it big in America, as well as when Deni serenades Kofi with ‘Summertime Magic’. The opening animation sequence is also very well done, with Rihanna narrating the history behind Guava Island.
While it’s look and direction is great, there’s not much else for the cast to do. Rihanna is the girlfriend muse for Deni to woo and she’s not given much else to work with in terms of dialogue and, surprisingly enough, nothing to sing. Letitia Wright also doesn’t have much to work with either as Kofi’s fellow co-worker and friend Yara and whilst Nonso Anozie also have limited screentime, he does at least get to provide charming menace.
The direction from Murai and cinematography from Sprenger is great here, but this is essentially a Gambino film for a reason and Glover gets to showcase his acting and music style here and unfrortunately that leaves the rest of the cast with little to do. Still the musical numbers are nice and work well with their sequences. 6/10