Half of a Yellow Sun is a lop-sided but moving and effective adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Orange Prize-winning novel.
The early scenes follow the romantic and professional lives of two affluent, educated young sisters in post-independence Nigeria. Olanna (Thandie Newton) is drawn to radical professor Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) while the entrepreneurial Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) begins a relationship with a white English writer (Joseph Mawle).
The early scenes play like episodes of a soap opera. There are domineering mothers, illicit pregnancies and plenty of gossip and backbiting. All the while, the tensions between the Igbo and Yoruba people are rising.
The film improves as the plight of its protagonists worsens. As the Biafran civil war breaks out, they are driven from their homes and confronted with violence, poverty and hardship.
Ejiofor's role might not be as gruelling as his turn in 12 Years a Slave but he gives a nuanced and powerful performance as another character whose certainties about his life are undermined by brute circumstance. Newton and Rose are equally impressive as the sisters who exchange a life of privilege for one of suffering.