Ekwa Msangi’s insightful and delicate tale of reconciliation starts at JFK airport where Walter (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine) waits for his wife and daughter that he hasn’t seen for 17 years. It’s taken this amount of time for him to be able to legally get them to immigrate from his Angolan homeland. Msangi shows us the scene from each of their different perspectives which helps us understand the total disconnect of their family.
Walter, a soft spoken taxicab driver has carved out a bachelor’s life, complete with a mistress, in his cramped one bedroom apartment in the Bronx Now that she has been banished Walter introduces Esther his wife (Zainab Jah) and his sullen teenager daughter Sylvia (Jayme Lawson) to their new home, which results in Sylvia locking herself in the tiny bathroom and crying her eyes out.
We may have wrongly assumed that any life away from the turmoil caused by the Angolan war would be automatically be welcomed by these new immigrants. However Msangi subtly shows us that for each of them there is now a great deal of friction and regret that has been building up in their years apart.
Esther probably tries hardest to overlook her new circumstances and to re-invent her role of faithful wife and mother but both Walter and Sylvia are hardly receptive to her attempts. It’s not just the physical shock of exchanging a very simple rural life for that of an inner city, but of the very different outlooks and expectations they have on life now.
We see Walter’s ex mistress Linda, who far from being a home breaker, was the one person who encouraged him most not to give up on his far-off family’s constantly deferred immigration petition. When Esther comes across a set of scent covered sheets in the closet, it’s not Walter that she turns too but her new friend and worldly next door neighbor Nzingha (Joie Lee) that sets her straight on how to deal with the ‘problem’.
With Walter working every hour seven days a week just so he could to pay the bills, the family spent far too much time apart putting so much pressure on their ability to form any meaningful bond together.
Sylvia at school at least struck up a romance with classmate DJ (Marcus Scribner). He in turn encouraged her one real passion in life : i.e. dancing . Then when she discovered that there was a dance competition with $1000 prize money, Sylvie entered thinking that would be enough to be able to leave home and get her own apartment.
However dancing was strictly against her church-going deeply religious mother’s beliefs, and when her ambition was discovered, a fierce argument ensued that threatened to actually split the whole family. It however turned out to be the catalyst that they needed to be able to find a way to move forward.
Despite the melodrama and all the trials and tribulations, this excellent feature debut from Msangi, is one of hope and determination. She avoids anger no matter how frustrated each of the family members get.
Best of all, Farewell Amor, puts us in immigrant shoes for two hours and gives a much needed insight how just one family manages to re-group and survive through such alien circumstances.