Nappily Every After Film ReviewBy Dominga Martin
September 21, 2018
Sanaa Lathan takes black girl magic to a new level in empowering new film.
Hair. Self Love and Romance take center stage in the new Netflix romantic comedy “Nappily Ever After” based on the novel by Trisha R. Thomas. The film stars everybody’s homegirl Sanaa Lathan, Lyric Bent (She’s Gotta Have It) and Lynne Whitfield (Greenleaf). Sanaa and Ms. Whitfield, along with the Director (Haifaa Al-Mansour ) and Producer Tracey Bing held an intimate q&a after an exclusive screening held at The Wing in New York City — a new inclusive space for women.
The audience erupted and cheered throughout the film, engaged with nuanced topics that black women identify with as it relates to our hair and the many phases we go through from a young girl to adult hood when it comes to the many textures and conversations around black hair.
The film opens with the first chapter: “WEAVE”…where Sanaa (VIOLET) finds herself in a loving relationship with her Doctor boyfriend CLINT, (portrayed by Ricky Whittle). The night gets hot and heavy, and although he thinks she’s perfect, he still can’t touch her hair!
“Don’t Touch My Hair,” “I’m not my Hair,” “I Love My Hair” become an underlying theme in the context of the film, leading to an empowering finale not just for black women, but all women who have unhealthy attachments to their hair and how it defines them.
However, before we get to the finale, Violet’s relationship takes an unexpected turn and the story delves into a new chapter: “BLONDE” which treads lightly on “white validation” and the need for acceptance both outwardly and inwardly. As a new blonde, Violet attracts a new suitor which ultimately forces her to face herself and her imperfections in the mirror. The movie takes a bold turn into the “BALD” chapter. This is the moment where Violet finds her power and life begins to pick up, including her job as a marketing executive who’s been having trouble identifying with her beauty clients.
To say the diverse audience of women identified at THE BIG CHOP moment, collectively is an understatement. However, Violet must still confront her deep seeded emotional attachment to the concept of “perfect hair and beauty” forced upon her by her mother PAULETTE, played with an eloquent fire as only Lynne Whitfield can rock and roll. Paulette is on the outs with her husband RICHARD (Ernie Hudson), who has “found himself” in ways she does not approve of. The family dynamic stretches and grows throughout the different hair stages as the film plays on and we find ourselves peeling layers of our own self discovery as the character finds her wholeness, without the need of acceptance.
“I just know the perception of mothers who have perceived: ‘what is the acceptable beauty for their daughters, and what that beauty will gain them in the workplace and in the place of marriage, matrimony…all of that [and] the doctors and the lawyers and the Indian chiefs…’” states Ms. Whitfield. While Sanaa describes the empowering film as a “metaphor for life…a film about hair and falling in love with yourself.”
The “Big Chop” is a term all women have come to learn, but more specifically in the black community when one decides to go “natural”. The big chop also happens after a break-up, as a liberating experience for women of all walks of life who have grown to accept themselves and want to start fresh, most likely leading to a new relationship. And just like magic, Violet is lead to this transformative journey after meeting a new love interest (WILL) who is a hair stylist.
This moment of self love is encouraged by his perspective of her true beauty — while in turn, her relationship with his young daughter (ZOE), acted exceptionally by Daria Johns, grows, teaching her by example to embrace who she is as a young black girl growing up with natural hair. However, Zoe’s confidence and self worth allows the grown ups to confront their own hang ups about hair, self acceptance and the old taboo of sweating, and unable to get into the pool!
The final chapter “NEW GROWTH” comes full circle as Violet finally owns her power, taking her shoes off and lets go. Although this film has taken Producer Tracey Bing 13 years to make, it is topical and fresh. An aha moment that’s right on time.
Nappily Ever After airs on Netflix (September 21st).