Childish Gambino’s Guava Island (now streaming on Amazon Prime Video) is unlike any movie you’ll see this year. Its cartoony set up leads way to a tropical thriller/comedy/musical that is both parts thought-provoking and fun.
Guava Island follows a local musician, Deni Maroon (Donald Glover), as he plans a music festival for the people of Guava when certain things don’t go as planned.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the movie is shot on classic film, which has a different aspect ratio than people are used to nowadays. After a few minutes, you’ll completely forget about that with beautiful cinematography and a story that sweeps you away.
Short But Sweet
Clocking in at a surprising 55 minutes, Guava Island shockingly never feels rushed or condensed. The story progression feels natural with a nice pace, although there were one or two moments that could’ve benefited from extra build-up for an extra kick.
Nonetheless, the film never lacked excitement. For instance, there’s a moment in the film when the characters are in serious danger. I felt like they were actually in danger. That sense of urgency builds throughout the second half making the investment well worth your time.
While the characters aren’t the most unique in movie history, they are perfect for this particular story. You immediately buy into their motivations and root for them to succeed. They are not plot devices; they actually make you care about what’s going on in the story.
Like with every Donald Glover project, the film works as a sociopolitical commentary, similar to that of “This is America,” the video of which is cleverly remade with a different yet equal meaning to the original. The film’s message is meaningful and makes you look at life through a different lens, raising questions you may not have considered before.
Also like every Donald Glover project, the film is just as weird. For example, the opening feels not unlike the opening to a children’s story, but has strange visual imagery throughout containing a much deeper meaning.
At times, the movie is a Childish Gambino musical. Characters sing and dance to remixed Gambino hits like “This is America,” “Summertime Magic,” and the (still) unreleased “Saturday.” These scenes are when the movie is at its most fun and creative. Like every good musical, each of these songs feel earned and progresses the story forward instead of just being there for the sake of having music.
Its impossible to talk about Guava Island without also talking about the future of Childish Gambino. Ever since Gambino announced he was only going to be releasing one more album before retiring from music completely, fans were left in disbelief, eagerly awaiting said album, and wondering what he’ll do next. It’s hard to imagine he’s never going to make another song again.
After watching this movie, labeled “a Childish Gambino film,” it’s hard to say if the big screen is the direction he’ll take moving forward, or if it’ll just be a one-off project. He’s already gathered a substantial small screen following with the FX hit Atlanta. Whether this is what lies ahead for Gambino fans or not, many will support him and follow him wherever he goes.
Guava Island is a great way to kick off the summer. The story, the setting, and the score create a very fun and tropical vibe; it’s like being on vacation from your couch. While the runtime is short, and probably could’ve benefited from a little more set-up, the film feels like it’s exactly what it set out to be, and that’s why I loved it.
Guava Island: 72%