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Film Review: Childish Gambino & Rihanna Impress With “Guava Island”

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

Love makes you do crazy things – so does one’s love for music.

Donald Glover, perhaps better known as Childish Gambino in the music world, recently released Guava Island, a short film – of which he produced – that follows the lives of musical celebrity Deni (played by Glover himself) and his love interest Kofi (played by Rihanna). The film opens with an introductory animation, reminiscent of the one in Glover’s “Feels Like Summer” music video. As I watched this beginning portion of the film, I was left with these questions: What can I expect? I wasn’t sure, but I was sure pumped to find out. 

Genre: Musical Film
My Rating: 8/10

Is Guava Island just another platform to showcase more of Glover’s music (which one can argue – has commercialized in recent times)? My answer to you: No, because his creative direction and production has shone through this short number. A bold shift and move from “Atlanta,” a drama-comedic TV show written by Glover himself, Guava Island has only further proven Glover’s artistic talent – far beyond his flair for music and screenwriting. The short film is a genius intersection of Glover’s creative expression in music and cinema. It gives us an in-depth look into his imagination, creativity and philosophical ideas. It left me wanting more!

The carefully curated selection of subject focus and color themes (which by the way, had symbolic meanings to them) serves as a constant reminder that Glover is one rare and precious holistic artiste of our generation. The use of filters to showcase the vintage vibe of the movie was successfully implemented that it allows viewers to be transported into the character’s world. I can’t even begin to describe the soundtrack. I can’t seem to find the right words that truly encapsulates how the musical score of the film was fool-proof. I found myself having goosebumps and wanting to repeat a certain scene just to listen to Glover sing again. From incorporating This Is America into a scene (and by using machinery in the background as the backing track) to stripped down versions of his other hit songs, Glover was performing within a performance. 

My only critic of the film would be that Glover’s character seemed a little overpowering at times, and I wish I got to know more about the other characters. Although it was released as a short film, as a viewer I still wish I got to see more of the story as it occasionally felt rushed – transitions between scenes can be harsh and sudden. I think the integration of the musical score into the film was smooth, relatable and necessary, but I wish Glover could’ve extended the movie plot-wise – for it to be more complex and less predictable. I realized that what kept me on my toes was the artistry and acting of Glover and Rihanna, not the story itself, which I feel should have initially carried me through instead of the actors.

I also felt that for the playful character that Deni was, I wish his character was more aggressive. It was frustrating sometimes to see inconsistencies in his character. The way he was being portrayed did not match up to the actions that he carried out (such as not fighting back when his guitar was smashed). I was a little disappointed that he just rode with it.

With that being said, Rihanna and Glover no doubt acted brilliantly. They stripped themselves of their real life personas and charismatically portrayed the characters of Deni and Kofi. They allowed Deni and Kofi to feel relatable, though the chemistry could’ve been better in my opinion. It did feel like their romance was stringed by the opening animation instead of the acting and onscreen chemistry throughout the film.

Watch a clip from Guava Island here:

I’ll leave you with these words of Deni: “In the end, what else do we have but dreams?” 

Dream big, kids. Never give up.

Clara Chan is a Feature Writer of the UCLA Chapter of Her Campus. A Singapore native, Clara is a 3rd year Communication Studies major with a special emphasis in Film, TV, and Digital Media. When Clara isn't sipping on hot chocolate, she loves to rewatch The Office, create Spotify playlists, and read about the latest news in pop culture.
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