Farewell Ella Bella is a bitter-sweet South African production about a young woman, Ella, who embarks on a journey from Beaufort West to Johannesburg to bury her father’s ashes at her childhood home.
With her on this journey of self-discovery is the charming Neo, played by Maake Ka-Ncube, her musician godfather, who has been absent for most of her life, and who now seems to want to make amends.
The movie, which boasts an all-female production team, centres on Ella’s state of mind, her reflections on her past and the frightening reality of having to deal with a future that doesn’t look promising.
Jay Anstey portrays the troubled Ella, pulled between caring for her sick, bed-ridden, alcoholic father (a literally wasted Lionel Newton), and a mother (Mary-Anne Barlow) who abandoned her.
Residing in the small town of Beaufort West in the Western Cape, Ella is a lost soul with few career opportunities and Anstey inhabits the character well.
There is very little sunshine in the life of this unfortunate soul. Director and writer Lwazi Mvusi certainly captures the moments when Ella’s life seems pointless as she bravely strives to make some sense of her existence.
Her character is miserable and she blames those around her for her circumstances. During her journey, Ella learns she is the only person who can bring herself happiness, but she must choose to do it.
It’s a painfully slow unravelling of her personality and patience is required. There’s a detour or two along the way, including giving a lift to a female hitchhiker which turns nasty.
What is interesting is that this is the first feature to come out of the Emerging Black Filmmakers Transformational Fund initiative.
It’s not a great and engaging production, but it’s workmanlike And the potential is there for the young Mvusi to come up with a more challenging story that is less predictable in the future.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Cast: Jay Anstey, Sello Maake Ka-Ncube, Lionel Newton, Mary-Ann Barlow
Director: Lwazi Mvusi