“Guava Island” and Childish Storytelling/by Meredith Stratmann

In 2019, Donald Glover, also known as Childish Gambino, produced a short film, “Guava Island.”  This short film spans just 56 minutes, but it sure is a whirlwind. I found this nugget when I was staying up late one night and streamed it on Amazon Prime. If you’re looking for something off-beat and a bit confusing, this is the film for you.

“Guava Island” starts off with a Moana-type intro. The animated title sequence outlines the history of Guava Island and then follows the story of Glover’s character Deni Maroon, and his significant other Kofi Novia (Rihanna). I loved this intro, and my curiosity was piqued. I was so excited to watch the rest of this film to see what happened to the upbeat Deni, even when the island was against him. 

“Guava Island” is considered a musical, but I would say that it focuses more on the dance aspect, rather than the vocals. It features a number of Glover originals, which he either wrote or co-wrote. I’m not gonna lie, a couple of them were bops. The dancing is phenomenal, and if you think Glover is attractive, it’s worth watching just for that. 

While “Guava Island” abounds in quality Childish Gambino vocals and dancing, it lacks in other areas. The plot is a bit spotty. While the basis is sound, the execution is poor. Often the storyline is lost under a song. Rather than always adding to the movie, and advancing the plotline, some of the songs simply just exist. They’re fun and catchy, but at times confusing.

While Deni and Kofi’s characters have some development, that’s the end. Actor Nonso Anozie’s character Red Cargo plays a significant role, but he just kind of shows up without a proper background. I felt there wasn’t enough focus on developing characters, relationships between them, and explanations for events.

I was admittedly confused at times, but my biggest complaint was that Rihanna was not utilized as she should have been. I mean it’s Rihanna. This is the queen that gave us “Diamonds” and “Umbrella.” She’s an icon, and her vocals were not utilized at all. Imagine a flawless Childish Gambino and Rihanna duet. There was so much potential, but “Guava Island” did not meet its full potential. 

Overall, I enjoyed this film. It’s a fun, bubbly film that is also serious, funny, and full of catchy songs. I like the island vibes and the dancing to go along with it. I also appreciated that it has the appeal of suspense. At the same time, it lacked plot and character development. Rihanna was not utilized to her full potential. 

If I had to give “Guava Island” my Rotten Tomatoes score, I would give it a 72%.  It really is unlike any other film I’ve ever watched, and it deserves something for that. I just wish Gambino would’ve stretched the entire film out in order to allow it to unfold more naturally.

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