Green Days by the River (book) is a renowned work of Caribbean literature by author Michael Anthony. The novel, which was written in 1967, tells the story of a 15-year-old boy growing up in Pierre Hill, Mayaro, Trinidad.
For many Saint Lucians the names Shellie and Rosalie prompts flashbacks of days at Secondary School when visuals of Mayaro were left only to the imagination. As of mid 2017 however, the words “Green Days By The River Film” appeared all over social media, sparking renewed interest in the fifty-one year old story. Much to our dismay though, when initial film screenings were revealed, it appeared only persons within the borders of Trinidad and Tobago would see the finished product. Thrown by the discovery we, along with West Indians the world over, indicated interest in seeing the film through incessant Facebook comments and messages to the film teams’ Facebook page and tada! Four months after its Trinidad release, the film opened at Caribbean Cinemas in Choc, Saint Lucia, along with cinemas in three other islands on January 18 2017.
Having watched the movie’s trailer several times prior to opening night, I had modern day, Hollywood movie expectations. Let me be the first to admit, that is not the case. Instead, Green Days By The River is striped of fluff and has the cinematic style usually seen at film festivals where the independent film is king. Packed within its one hour and forty-five minute running time are tight, purposeful close up and medium shots, where subjects are masterfully placed in and out of focus when most fitting. As a viewer, you are compelled to conclude that at the heart of the story is a teenage boy navigating his early introduction to manhood while his father grows sicker by the day.
On the film’s other technicalities, not only is it propelled by Shellie’s character development but its slowed pacing at key moments in the plot coupled with an apt soundtrack, heavy with instrument and chant like vocals were well placed, creating natural transitions and successfully emphasizing character and story peaks. To add with pleasure, nothing felt forced.
Much to the prowess of the actors, from Shellie, played by Sudai Tafari, down to Mr. Gidharee’s dogs Tiger, Lion and Hitler, (Rover missing in action) and equally so to Film Director Michael Mooleedhar’s expertise, character portrayal was frankly, for me, the most enjoyable aspect of the movie. Having kept much of the books dialogue — which was loaded with Trinidadian dialect and accents of French creole, the flow of conversation and characters’ interactions also felt genuine. (Allow me to cheekily add here; Vanessa Bartholomew ‘s portrayal of Joan and the actress’ on screen presence was enchanting.)
Although the movie’s offerings of long, establishing shots – like the scenes depicting the Ortoire river, Shellie moving through ‘the bush’, Joan and Shellie down on the beach to name a few – were so beautifully shot and rendered, (understanding my desire for more may very well be reason for the following) the only ‘character’ I would have loved seeing more of was Trinidad itself as, as per Michael Anthony’s book version, Pierre Hill for instance made such a significant contribution to the story’s palpability.
To conclude, I urge all to go see the film while it is in cinemas. Not only is it a great film adaptation which keeps many of the key elements that made the novel a Caribbean classic but, the opportunity to see authentic West Indian stories on the big screen, although hopefully this changes soon, is few and far in between.