The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind Review: A passionate telling of a moving true story from Chiwetel Ejiofor
Bringing a moving story about persevering in desperate times, Chiwetel Ejiofor brings the incredible true story of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind to life with a writing and directorial feature debut that further showcases his incredible talent.
Based on the book of the same name by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, the film follows a young Malawi boy, William (Maxwell Simba), that is struggling to survive during an immense famine with his family. William is incredibly bright and has a love for science, thanks to his mother (Aissa Maiga) and fathers’ (Ejiofor) desire for him to be educated, but is limited by his family’s lack of money. Things get worse his village’s famine problem becomes drastic and it leads William to devise a plan for his family’s farm to thrive again before things become fatal.
The film definitely starts a little slow and, honestly, I wasn’t sure how much I was connecting to what I was seeing. There’s a lot of exposition about William’s family, the village dynamics, and some African culture. There’s definitely a lot that Ejiofor tries to talk about and showcase in the film’s first act, but, to his credit, he does a pretty good job establishing what life in this Malawi village is like. It’s a little confusing at times why the dialogue switches between English and the native Malawi language, Chewa, but it’s pretty easy to get over.
However, once the film reaches its climax with the famine and flooding causing the village to take a nasty turn, it becomes incredibly powerful and motivational. Ejiofor does an excellent job showing both the bareness of the African landscape during the dry seasons as well as the intense flooding that occurs from harsh rain storms. The film literally lets you see the emptiness and effects of the famine through William’s eyes and it can be pretty horrifying at times.
The way that Ejiofor captures the famine is gruesomely realistic as it focuses more on the psychological and emotional strain that William and his family go through rather than focusing on physical violence. All of this personified by the superb performances from the entire cast with Simba and Ejiofor being clear standouts with their relationship taking a toll as their farmland dries up.
Horror thankfully turns to hope though as William’s more hopeful attitude comes to the forefront of the film’s final act. Oddly enough, I found myself actually getting excited and having a deep internal desire for William to succeed in creating a windmill to power his family’s water pump. His understanding for how to build the structure is fascinating to watch and is incredibly well built. There are also moments where William and his father conflict with one another over ideologies and it’s interesting to see how their cultural ideals play into this need for survival. Regardless, William’s positive outlook is very passionate and seeing the results of his final creation is truly powerful and a special sight to behold.
It’s also rare to see themes about wind power in films and it works so well with The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. The themes are very organic and it perfectly sparks more thought on the subject, without ever telling viewers how to feel.
Ejiofor is an all-around force to be reckoned with as his writing and directing feature debut is heartfelt, passionate, and genuine. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is definitely a story that needs to be seen and heard and hopefully we’ll find Ejiofor behind the camera again sometime soon.