Monday, September 24, 2018

Film Review | Nappily Ever After

Last Friday saw the release of Nappily Ever After on Netflix, and trust me, Twitter has been talking! Based on the novel by Trisha R. Thomas, Nappily Ever After tells the story of a black woman's path to independence - independence from the pressure of conforming to a standard of beauty perpetuated by the very industry she works in.

Venus Johnston (Sanaa Lathan) is an African American advertising professional who seemingly has a perfect life, which includes her gorgeous boyfriend, Clint (Ricky Whittle). But Venus battles with deep insecurity issues with her hair, which prevents her from enjoying life.  The night of her birthday dinner, when Clint presents her with a dog instead of the engagement ring she was expecting, the pair have a bust-up, which leads to a breakup. A devastated Venus thus commences her journey to self-discovery.

After experimenting with blonde hair, Venus finally decides to shave her hair off in a frenzied moment, after a disastrous night of clubbing. What unfolds after that is a transition from a lack of confidence, to freedom and self-acceptance.

Inherited Mindsets. 
The film starts in Atlanta, 1993. A young Venus is being berated by her mother (Lyn Whitfield) for getting her hair wet in a pool, and transforming her neatly pressed locks back into its natural frizzy state. This is aptly followed by clips of her mother subjecting her to painful ordeals with the hot comb. As black women, many of us can relate. The scene is an apt reminder that many of the insecurities we face with our hair and skin tone have been inherited through the flippant remarks and bad habits of our parents. I remember as a child, my natural hair was always referred to as 'unkempt'. 

Behind the times?
One of the conversations that this film ignited was whether it was somewhat dated. The latest wave of the natural hair movement began at least ten years ago, and it is unlikely that this film will start another. The 2009 documentary, Good Hair, explored cultural attitudes towards our tresses, and it was around the time celebrities such as Solange Knowles and Jill Scott opted for teeny weeny afros. Nappily Ever After would have been revolutionary years ago, but in 2018 it's like trying to catch a train when it has already left the station. 


There were elements of the film I also found missed mark. The message really would have hit home for many black women if a darker skinned actress whose natural hair grew truly 'nappy' were used. Women such as Lupita Nyong'o or Gabrielle Union might have left a stronger impression. Sanaa Lathan is a talented actress, but her fair skin and soft curls still make her closer to the European ideal, even with short hair.


I was also uncomfortable with the narrative that when a black woman finds herself or is liberated, she is happy to settle with a less successful man. Although money ain't everything, I certainly don't want young girls thinking that success and enlightenment are mutually exclusive.

There are other parts of the story which made little sense to me, however exposing them here will give the film away. Perhaps, if you have seen it you can comment below on whether you noticed anything being amiss. If you haven't go and watch it and come back and comment!

Altogether, a good movie. Not bad for a relaxing Friday evening after a busy week. Have you seen Nappily Ever After? What do you think about the natural hair movement? Sound off below!

Runtime: 98 mins 
Directed by: Haifaa Al-Mansour
Age classification: 15

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17 comments

  1. Your breakdown of this film is so thorough; I always love your in depth reviews. In particular, you make a very good point about what you wouldn't want young girls to think - a very interesting perspective! Hope you're having a lovely week so far Madeline :)

    aglassofice.com x

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    1. Thank you Gabrielle. Yeah the media have a bad habit of reinforcing negative messages. And it's always done so subtly!

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  2. The way you review the film makes me wanna watch it :)
    Definitely going to check this film out!

    - Marina W

    http://waitmarinawho.blogspot.com/2018/09/autumn-tag-movie.html

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  3. Hi😊I disagree with the 'less successful man' part. That man was a better man, a real man, he understood her value and treated her accordingly. It shows that when you know who you are and understand your value you'll choose the best partner. And if he happens to earn less money than you...oh well. He wasn't lazy or broke, he still brought in money and his financial value went up at the end of the movie. It's actually cool that it was a woman increasing a man's business and financial value for once. That's my cents lol other than that this was such a dope review!

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    1. Hi! Thank you for sharing 'your 2 cents'! :-) Everything you said is valid, in fact you're right! But I am speaking of perceived success or financial success. In the film, Venus' mother was cold towards the salon owner because 'he was no doctor'. That's what I am speaking about. The nice guy is always the one with less money whereas the 'mean' guy (or the one portrayed as less deserving of the main female protagonist) is the richer one.

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  5. first time commenting on your blog, l enjoyed the movie but l didn't like how she settled for a different guy. You are right, they need to allow for movies to show black women marrying the doctor too. we done with the good guy having less money

    love reading your blog, great that you love books :-) keep it up

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    1. Hi Destiny...you are very much welcome to the blog. Thanks for commenting! Exactly girl! Also the doctor should be given a desirable personality. Thanks again.

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  6. Welcome back even though it seems you have been back for a while. I haven't watched the film but soon will after reading this. I think that the film is continuing the conversations of having/keeping our natural hair out. It's told as a story instead of a documentary as well. The more we keep the natural hair movement in the media the more we share our experiences and inform others from different cultural backgrounds. Thanks for a great review. P.S. I didn't know it was on Netflix.

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    1. Thanks Betty! Yes it came out on Netflix a few weeks back! And yes you are right about keeping natural hair visible in the media so it becomes a lifestyle for black women rather than a fad.

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  8. Hey! Welcome back, Madeline. *Hugs* I do share your sentiment on the nappy hair being represented in the movie. When I watched the part that showed her going natural, I thought to myself, "Is that a weave?" I didn't even think the blonde hair was her hair until she ran the clipper through it. So, I couldn't relate to the 'nappiness'. Other than that, it was a good Netflix and chill movie.XO

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    1. Hi Bubu! Thanks so much. Sending you back lots of hugs. I thought it was a weave too! Especially when it was straight. I totally agree. Not bad ffor a Friday night!

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  9. Great article Lot's of information to Read...Great Man Keep Posting and update to People..Thanks buy dvd taken season 1

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