Coming off of a hot 2018-19 year of musical success, renaissance man Donald Glover also known as Childish Gambino stars in and is a creator of the new short film Guava Island, alongside none other than the ‘bad gal’ herself, Rihanna. The fifty-five minute musical film takes place on the former paradise of Guava Island. The story follows Glover’s character, Deni Maroon, a local musician seeking to liberate and unite the people.
The film features a number of Childish Gambino’s recent hits, along with some more of his unreleased work. The film is able to highlight the best parts of his music while not overshadowing the main story. While the film’s overall message is very much centered around music, the uses of the various tracks flow naturally and give more depth to the songs.
Guava Island’s fifty-five minute runtime left more to be desired. The romantic relationship between Rihanna’s character Kofi and Glover’s Deni was captivating due to their natural on-screen chemistry. Both are very different characters, but seem to fit perfectly with one another, with Kofi’s ambitious and determined attitude complimenting Deni’s charismatic and relaxed approach. This was one aspect of the film that could have benefitted from a longer runtime, especially when using such big stars.
The overall tone and narrative was very strong throughout the film, written by brothers Donald and Stephen Glover, and directed by Hiro Murai. They had previously worked on Donald Glover’s primary TV series, Atlanta, now teaming up again. The two share apparent similarities in both the visuals as well as the mood. A main part of the film is dedicated to the powerful track, “This is America”, and the theme of this song is present throughout. Guava Island becomes an example of a world where freedom is seized by greed. Presenting relevant and deep rooted problems through media and art has become a signature of Donald Glover and Hiro Murai.
Before anything, Guava Island is a statement about the state of our world, but that does not mean that this film isn’t fun and enjoyable. The use of music is natural, giving the film a unique aspect that plays off of the established talent of Glover. While it would be nice to see more of Rihanna’s character, the relationship between the two wasn’t the priority, which let the focus be the meaning of the film. Overall, Guava Island brings attention to important topics, while also using charming storytelling that shows promise for Glover’s future.