Contrary to its title, “Farewell Amor” begins with a reunion. In a delicate opening set in an airport, Walter (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine), an Angolan refugee in New York, embraces his wife and teenage daughter, who’ve just arrived in America after a 17-year wait for visas.
But Ekwa Msangi’s tender drama shows us that goodbyes haunt immigrants wherever they go. Walter, we learn, has just broken up with a lover who kept him company all these years. His wife, Esther (Zainab Jah), and daughter, Sylvia (Jayme Lawson), are quietly mourning the lives they’ve abandoned to live in a strange country with a now-strange man.
Msangi employs a neat trick to capture the family’s coming-together in all its complexity. Split into three chapters, the film depicts their reunion from each character’s perspective, switching from the wide shot of the opening to a more intimate, point-of-view style. Each version deepens our understanding of the characters by highlighting new details: a strained smile; the hesitation before a hug.
Even as “Farewell Amor” treads familiar paths, its tripartite structure allows for uncommon nuance. Another film might have painted Esther’s religious orthodoxy as quaint or even caricaturish. Here, in hushed montages, Jah powerfully conveys Esther’s loneliness in America, while the character’s long-distance calls reveal how she found community in church after losing her home to war.
Sylvia’s strand is the most conventional (though Lawson sparkles onscreen). A vivacious dancer prohibited from pursuing her passion by her mother, she defies her way into a step contest. It’s a contrived plotline, but it infuses the film with an ebullient rhythm, the music giving Sylvia a taste of home — and a reason for hope.
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Google Play, Vudu and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.
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