From the surface level, “Guava Island” could be categorized as a visual album — a very long music video for Donald Glover’s hip-hop alter ego, Childish Gambino, with a touch of Rihanna as his arm candy. The story is quite simple and bittersweet, resembling more of a folktale — a passionate young musician who aspires to organize a music festival for the oppressed people of a dictatorial island.
“Guava Island” is stronger both visually and in terms of the vibe than the actual screenwriting. Similar to every remake of any superhero and fairy tale movies — such as Spiderman, Batman, or Cinderella — it’s predictable enough to know how it ends. Glover’s 55-minute film holds the same notion — it’s expected. However, like all superhero movies, we don’t watch them simply for the storyline, but for the journey and experience they takes us on. By the end of the first act, it’s clear what’s going to happen to the main character. Don’t give the storyline too much thought — it’s nothing too complex. However, do pay attention to the direction that the film takes both visually and emotionally, as it allows the audience to live in the moment and appreciate the characters, the music and the aesthetic. The entirety of the visual representation is beautiful and pure.
Glover generally prefers to do things differently than others, which explains why the film is short and more music-focused. Unlike “Atlanta,” the film’s intended to not fill in all the gaps and be super deep — it’s intended to be symbolic and to inspire and inform the viewers. “Guava Island” is also not the stereotypical Hollywood movie made to purely entertain its audience. Rather, the film is more for the style rather than the substance. While the direction that Glover and director Hiro Murai took is both impressive and quite brave, the film ultimately falls short of expectation when compared to their previous works, such as the “This is America” music video and “Atlanta.” However, as we already know, Glover and Murai don’t mind if their work doesn’t stand out, fit into a box or meet the status quo.
Besides from the writing, Glover underused everyone beside himself. Rihanna, could’ve had a meatier role, was unfortunately and sorely underused. Surprisingly enough, Rihanna did not sing in the movie — the talent she is widely famous for. However, she did look gorgeous and gave a great acting performance.
Overall, this short film oozes summertime vibes and how the celebration of life is celebrated differently among cultures — making you appreciate the simple aspect of life, like art and the people around you. If you haven’t watched “Guava Island,” I recommend seeing it for the creative direction in terms of the style and aesthetic. It gives off a very chic feel of what an indie film is and should be.