REVIEW: Donald Glover goes independent with ‘Guava Island’

Donald Glover’s “Guava Island” premiered at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival following Glover’s set as Childish Gambino. The film was made available to stream on Amazon Prime Saturday. (Photo from IMDb)

Last August, entertainment news outlets reported that musical giants Donald Glover and Rihanna were filming a secret project in Havana, Cuba. On Nov. 24, Glover premiered the secret project’s trailer at the PHAROS Festival in Auckland, New Zealand. With Spotify ads and an early screening at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, “Guava Island” was finally released on Amazon Prime Saturday.

In the project, Glover portrays Deni Maroon, a musician who wants to plan a festival for the residents of Guava Island.

From the beginning, Glover’s creativity is on full display. The opening credits are beautifully animated to the new Childish Gambino track “Die With You.” Vibrant colors explode on the screen as the sequence effortlessly transitions between credits.

From there, director Hiro Murai introduces viewers to the island. For an adventurous feel, Murai provides the film with a grainy look and old school television aesthetic. Furthermore, Murai strongly captures the cultural aura of the tropical setting with the costume design, the locals and Michael Uzowuru’s dreamy music.

Despite the star appeal of the Glover-Rihanna collaboration, the film doesn’t rely on cheap selling points, and “Guava Island” feels authentic to Glover’s vision. Both actors naturally play off each other in an infectious chemistry.

Glover especially seems more at ease working with his frequent crewmates, and he even has a few shining moments with his musical talents. “Guava Island” is interwoven with new songs penned by Glover, from “Die For You” to “Saturday,” which he performed on “Saturday Night Live.” The inclusion of these songs feels natural and fits within Glover’s cinematic world.

In fact, only Glover’s previously released songs feel out of place in the film. The scene featuring Glover’s smash hit “This is America,” although paired with original choreography by Sherrie Silver, feels unnecessary and brings the film to a grinding halt.

Another moment with “Summertime Magic” similarly removes viewers from the experience. In these moments, Glover seems to celebrate his own legacy rather than building upon it.

Many have speculated that “Guava Island” is linked to “Spirits,” Glover’s final album under the stage name Childish Gambino.

Glover deserves all the buzz, and his influence on the entertainment industry only strengthens with each project.

Regardless of the potential release of “Spirits,” “Guava Island” is the perfect way to get a sense of Glover’s creative mindset, even if it is only a teaser for greater things to come.