Nappily Ever After (2018)

Nappily Ever After
Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour
Writer: Adam Brooks, Cee Marcellus
Based on: Trisha R. Thomas’ novel
Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Ricky Whittle, Lyriq Bent, Lynn Whitfield, Ernie Hudson, Daria Johns, Camille Guaty, Brittany S. Hall
Seen on: 6.4.2019

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

Violet (Sanaa Lathan) has everything under control. She has a good career and a beautiful and successful boyfriend, Clint (Ricky Whittle). Violet is waiting for Clint to propose and she has been waiting for a while. Finally she confronts him and instead of a proposal it leads to them breaking up. This break-up leaves Violet reeling with all her carefully laid plans derailed, until she finally loses it at Will’s (Lyriq Bent) hair salon. But maybe this entire thing is also a possibility for a fresh start for Violet.

Nappily Ever After is cute, albeit set in scene with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. But I enjoyed it overall.

The film poster showing Violet (Sanaa Lathan) with a shaved heads, painted flowers around her.

Black people’s hair, especially Black women’s hair, is a very political thing. Or rather, it is politicized, a very visible stand-in for Black people whose very existence is seen as an affront and something that is only allowed to exist conditionally in our white world. This film uses that fact to tell its story, showing not only the many ways Black people’s hair is a political issue, but also using it to symbolize Violet’s growth.

It’s with the latter that the film loses all pretense at subtlety and is just shy of handing you a manual to understand the symbolism: at the beginning, Violet is a perfectionist control freak who spends seemingly most of her life worried that her hair – always straightened and made to fit white expectations – may become messed up. At her low point, she shaves it off. She turns towards natural hairstyles as she becomes more and more herself. The man she falls in love with is a hairdresser who developed a product line to take care of natural Black hair. I guess you see how this is all a tad overdone.

Violet (Sanaa Lathan) at the hairdresser.

Speaking of the romance: I was a little torn about the ending. [SPOILERS] On the one hand, I liked that this not the usual “and with the right man she lived happily ever after” romance, but on the other hand I feel like Black women so often don’t get the happily ever after, it would have been nice to get it here. [/SPOILERS]

In any case, I really enjoyed the film. The cast is great, it’s funny and it delivered just the right amount of lightness that I was looking for at the moment, grounded by some serious issues. In short, it’s very watchable.

Violet (Sanaa Lathan) and Will (Lyriq Bent) holding each other.

Summarizing: sweet.

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