In our politically charged times, there’s a great deal of debate on the subject of immigration. There are those who have issues with people who come to the country through, let’s just say extralegal ways, and then there are those who follow the rules, get to the back of the line, and wait their turn to be able to come to America. Director Ekwa Msangi shows the impact of how that process that causes severe damage to a family in Farewell Amor.
Walter (Ntare Mwine) has been living in Brooklyn for the last 17 years after he was able to leave Angola following a civil war and consistently works as a cab driver. His wife Esther (Zainab Jah) and child Sylvia (Jayme Lawson) however, we not so lucky and had to wait 17 years for their visas to come to America and be reunited with Walter. Now just think about that: if you had to wait 17 years to be with your family, would you still technically be together after all that time. Hell, sometimes after an extended vacation apart couples nowadays are ready to call it quits. But Farewell Amor takes a deep dive into the now extremely complicated lives of Walter, Esther, and Sylvia through a unique Rashomon lens as we understand the perspective of each character and the confusion that their new situation manifests.
Walter, although he works hard has been considerably lonely after all these years. Even though he happy to be reunited with his wife, he hasn’t been as completely faithful as Esther has. Walter has fallen in love with a nurse he met during his time in America. When Esther first wants to reunite with her husband physically, he rejects her advances. She thinks it’s because she has gotten old and is no longer sexy, but the fact is, he’s still in love with Linda (Nana Mensah). He even sneaks off to a local club he and Linda used to dance at for “one last dance” as he’s now a man torn between two worlds. Esther has come back with an almost fanatical religious devotion after 17 years, which rubs Walter the wrong way. Esther doesn’t dance anymore, she doesn’t drink, and is conservatively strict towards their daughter. She’s just a different person than she once was.
Sylvia also has her own issues. She’s a young immigrant who has to start being accustomed to the American way of life. Despite coming from war-torn Angola and raised somewhat in Tanzania, she’s disturbed by metal detectors at her local school. Esther also doesn’t like the idea of her daughter loving dancing, and finally getting to see her father she only remembers from phone calls (that stopped after a while). She does meet someone at school that helps her along. DJ (Marcus Scribner of Black-ish fame) has taken a liking to her. As they flirt and get to know each other, he encourages her to join a step competition that he’s hosting in the area, something she’s going to have to figure out how to keep a secret from her mother.
Esther comes across as tropey throughout the Sylvia and Walter parts of the film, but when we see things from her perspective, this gives some nuance for her. She has so many years with just her and her daughter in a war-torn area, she found solace in religion and became extremely devout. But when she got to America, she kept her devotion to her husband’s disappointment. At the same time, some things aren’t adding up for her. Receiving mail addressed to Linda for her husband’s apartment raises a red flag. After befriending neighbor Nzingha (Joie Lee) who tries her best not to tell her the truth, Esther realizes that she and her husband are just two distinctly different people and this time apart has devastating consequences on their marriage and their family.
The final act is the calumniation of all three perspectives and how they are to move forward either as a family, or go their own separate ways. While Farewell Amor is a little predictable, it’s the acting that elevates the story. All three characters, especially Jayme Lawson as Sylvia completely shine. Director Ekwa Msangi who was born in the US, based the Farewell Amor on his uncle and aunt who also were separated by visa difficulties but made their marriage work through the ordeal. While Farewell Amor is an exemplary immigrant story, it’s absolutely a story about a family trying to find a way to work things through an extremely difficult situation.
Farewell Amor is available for purchase on VOD.