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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind - Movie Review

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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Chiwetel Ejiofor makes his debut behind the camera with The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, an uplifting true story about a young schoolboy in Malawi who invents an unconventional way to save his African village from famine. The BAFTA-winning actor also stars in the film and adapts the screenplay from the 2009 memoir of the same name by William Kamkwamba (played here by Maxwell Simba) and Bryan Mealer. Ejiofor is excellent in all three phases of his involvement with the film which made its premiere at last year’s Sundance and will be available via Netflix on March 1.

"There’s a lot to recommend in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and, not surprisingly, it all involves Ejiofor’s handiwork, in one way or another. He’s that good here and as a result, his film soars."


13-year-old William lives in rural Malawi with his hard-working farming family looked after by father Trywell (Ejiofor) and mother Lillie (Aïssa Maïga). William and his sister Annie (Lily Banda) attend school off and on whenever the family can afford to pay the school fees. Dirt poor and starving, the family lives off the meager crops they can grow in the barren soil. But when the land fails to provide during a period of drought and seemingly never-ending political conflict, young William is forced to drop out of school and help his father in the parched fields.

But William has another interest. He’s a tinkerer and makes pocket change by fixing the radios of fellow villagers, a skill that eventually comes in handy when he begins dreaming of using his knowledge of electronics to help his family’s plight.

It’s no secret that William eventually builds a crude windmill and figures out a way to make it generate electricity that can then be used to get water into the village’s dry fields. We know that from the film’s trailers. And it’s a special filmmaker who can take a story with a foregone conclusion and still manage to enthrall an audience for two hours. But that’s exactly what Ejiofor does as we’re run through the gamut of emotions.

Ejiofor shows masterful expertise behind the camera as he perfectly balances the warmth and heart of the family sequences with the cruelty inflicted by the hardscrabble environment. The film is not without its technical faults, however. And in spite of some pacing issues and a couple of under-developed threads, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is an uplifting and inspirational tale that feels as if it comes from a much more experienced filmmaker. Ejiofor somewhat loses his way during the film’s middle section which drags on a bit too long. Precious time that could have been put to better use in the final act’s run-up to the money shots.

Ejiofor doesn’t settle for a straightforward telling of William’s accomplishments. Interjected throughout the film’s narrative moments are scenes of haunting religious imagery as well as some breathtaking visuals (from DP Dick Pope) of the Malawian countryside that often communicate far more succinctly than a line of dialogue might. Action sequences don’t prove to be too much for the filmmaker either as he flawlessly executes a couple of riot scenes that might have easily overwhelmed any other novice director. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Netflix acquired the global rights to The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind back in 2018 and will make it available via its streaming service on March 1, 2020. Well-written, well-acted, and perfectly executed, the film comes with far more emotional depth than much of the streaming service’s original film output. It also represents a rare instance of an actor striking gold behind the camera in a debut effort.

There’s a lot to recommend in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and, not surprisingly, it all involves Ejiofor’s handiwork, in one way or another. He’s that good here and as a result, his film soars.

4/5 stars

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
113 mins
Director
: Chiwetel Ejiofor
Writer:
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Cast:
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Maxwell Simba, Felix Lemburo
Genre
: Drama
Tagline:
Based on a True Story.
Memorable Movie Quote: "the rains came late this year, and now the trees are gone."
Distributor:
Netflix
Official Site: https://www.netflix.com/title/80200047
Release Date:
March 1, 2020
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: Against all the odds, a thirteen year old boy in Malawi invents an unconventional way to save his family and village from famine. Based on the best selling book and true story of William Kamkwamba.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

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