Green Days by the River Review in 4 Slices (Trinidad and Tobago)

Fifty years after the beloved novel Green Days by the River by Michael Anthony was published the seminal work has received a film adaptation. Green Days by the River, directed by Michael Mooleedhar (The Cool Boys, City on the Hill), tells the story of a poor 15 year-old boy named Shellie (Sudai Tafari) living in the east coast community of Mayaro in 1952 when the country was still a British colony. Shellie is befriended by a wealthy Indian land owner named Mr Gidharee (Anand Lawkaran) and falls for his beautiful dougla (half Indian, half creole) daughter Rosalie (Nadia Nisha Kandhai).

Green Days, a coming of age story about hope, choices and the unexpected twists of life, was chosen to open the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival 2017. So now that you are all caught up it is time to get into my review which I will be keeping spoiler free. Here it is in four slices:

Slice 1 – Breath taking visuals

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Joan: This is your house Shellie? Shellie: Yeah. Why? Joan: What a dump!

From the opening shots the film strikes your soul with its beautiful cinematography, and praises must be given to cinematographer Andressa Cor. The sparkling river gleams, a heron lazes atop a gorgeous bison and even a bobbing dasheen leaf looks breathtaking. The film especially shines in its still moments: a bloody caiman morphs into a dripping sno cone, Shellie looks out at golden sunset and Rosalie dances hypnotically on cocoa seeds. The film is a veritable feast for the eyes.

Slice 2 – Blast from the past

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Author Michael Anthony (left) and actress Nadia Nisha Kandhai. Courtesy LoopTT

As mentioned above the film is set in 1952 and it was truly ambitious of the crew to attempt to recreate the look and feel of a time five decades in the past. The costuming is well done for the most part and the choice of shooting locations and older vehicles help bring the illusion to life. But the aspect that helps most with the time travel is the dialogue. There are terms like “major” and calling females “janes” which have faded into the pages of history. Shellie’s parents also speak in French patois on a few occasions, a language which is sadly dying out in the country. But the best part is that the dialogue is unapologetically Trinidadian creating an authentic feel that will be comforting to locals and enjoyable to foreign audiences.

Slice 3 – Fine to fantastic performances

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So what happen? Allyuh going and just stand there and stare at me?

The acting in Green Days is solid overall. Kandhai and Vanessa Bartholomew, who plays Shellie’s other love interest Joan, are both stiff at times with their line delivery but still believable in their roles. The two are both first time actresses and their efforts show great promise. Tafari, also a first timer, slips easily into the short pants of Shellie and you are engaged by his unsure, hopeful, infatuated character. The standouts in the film, however, are veteran actors Lawkaran and Che Rodriguez as Mr Gidharie and Pa Lammy respectively. Lawkaran’s Gidharee is charming, funny and intimidating and he was so brilliant in the role he should be nominated for an award. Rodriguez’s Pa Lammy is fantastic and you truly feel for this ailing father who only wants the best for his son and only child. Honourable mention also to the very capable Dara Healy as Ma Lammy and I would have liked to have seen more screen time with her.

Slice 4 – Odd point of view

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Director Michael Mooledhar (left) sets up a shot

While I thoroughly enjoyed the film, even moreso the second time I saw it, it is not perfect. The plot follows the book religiously and a few liberties could have helped keep the pace from dipping at times. But the issue that brings it down a peg is some of the shot choices. There are a number of occasions where characters are speaking but you do not see their faces. While this is fine if you are going for a particular effect it happens so much that it is distracting. It was so bad that in one scene I was confused whether it was Rosalie or another character. There was also a scene between Shellie and Joan where the camera starts on Shellie and then very slowly pans over to Joan. The choice actually takes away from the scene and a more traditional shot would have been preferable. But some odd shot choices were not enough to ruin the movie for me. The film remains a beautifully shot, very strongly acted and an overall enjoyable experience.

Rating: The film gets 3.75/5 sweet douglas

Green Days by the River is currently showing in cinemas nationwide in Trinidad and Tobago. For my review of Trinidad and Tobago thriller The Cutlass you can click here.


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