Green Days by the River is the film adaptation of the classic novel of the same name written by Michael Anthony in 1967. This film, written by Dawn Cumberbatch and directed by Michael Mooleedhar, is the coming of age story following the timid Shellie Lammy, called Shell, from the coastal village of Mayaro. Having an ailing father, he decides to forgo attending school to find employment. It is with this that he becomes close to his neighbor – the man with the long, sharp, cutlass at his waist and three massive Tobago dogs – Mr. Gidharee, who lets Shell take home fruits from his land for his family. This man is also the father of the dougla “jane” that Shell has had his eye on since he moved, Rosalie. It is through him that Shell becomes close to her all while Mr. Gidharee is quite fond of Shell. However, complications arise when Shell is introduced to another “jane” from Sangre Grande who he also takes a liking to. Here is where the core conflict is created.
When I first heard that this story was being translated to the screen, I honestly expected a very pedestrian transplanting of the novel. However, after watching the first five minutes of the picture, I was confident that we were in the hands of a careful filmmaker. I really want to emphasize “filmmaker” because Moodleedhar really displayed his competence in the film language within this work.
I immediately felt nostalgia for a time I myself have never experienced. I didn’t feel like I was merely looking at the past; I was immersed within it. The locations, art direction and costuming really worked together to create authentic imagery that really forced you to feel immersed in the 1954 setting.
The cinematography was very well handled even though it was unconventionally minimalistic. When watching this film, expect long takes with a slowly moving camera which is a style this reviewer enjoys, but others may find distracting. This style of cinematography works to emphasize which character’s point of view the director wants the audience to identify with. There are some scenes, however, in which the framing felt uncomfortably close. I am not sure if they were famed that way to hide modern day objects that would be anachronistic.
The most memorable actor was Anand Lawkaran who plays Mr. Gidharee. He was perfectly cast as his performance felt the most authentic of all the performers on the screen; no other actor matched his authenticity. On the other hand, I was honestly a little disappointed in the performances from Sudai Tafari and Nadia Kandhai who play Shell and Rosalie respectively. Many times, their expressions and line delivery were lack-lustre as if they were not particularly sure of the motivation of particular lines.
Perhaps this could also be a problem with the script because there were some lines directly taken from the book that, while being fine in the novel, came off a little clunky on the screen. The only other nit-pick on acting that I have is Shell’s father’s coughing. I think the portrayal of sick characters is a delicate thing to balance. In this case, his coughing can come off distractingly forced. Otherwise, the performances from the cast all around were very well done.
As for the pacing of the film, it felt like it took too long to develop to the core conflict of the story; I believe this film could have been a little shorter because some scenes seemed to drag on closer to the first half of the film. However, when you felt that you were going to hit the edge of a snooze, the AMAZING score by Laura Karpman would jolt you back to life. The score for this film was pure excellence while it boosted the Caribbean flavour of this work.
Overall, I think that this film is very much a faithful adaptation of the beloved Caribbean novel and will be a must-see film for literary and motion picture students for generations to come.