Lowdown: A dysfunctional British family in Africa's seventies.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but my impression is that all British guys called Richard have been born in Africa. This has been the case with Richard Dawkins, and this is also the case with Richard E. Grant. Grant played in lots of stuff - I remember him mostly from his rather minor role in Coppola's Dracula - and Wah-Wah represents his directional debut. The thing about Wah-Wah is that it is supposed to be autobiographical; not that this matters much when you watch the film.
The film's plot is relatively simple, containing not much we haven't seen before. It's set in Africa, starting from the late sixties and moving towards the seventies - the last days of the last shreds of the British empire's in Africa. We follow life through the eyes of a boy, and the first thing we follow is him seeing how his mother betrays his father with another man. Next we see the parents break up with the mother leaving home, next the son is sent to a boarding school, next he returns home to find his father remarried to an American, and the rest of the film is about the teenager trying to come to grips with all that has transpired. As well as with his alcoholic father.
All the while, the British are handing over the country to the locals. It's never the focus of the film, but you're sort of left with the feeling that maybe what the film actually is about is the story of the locals taking over the country, and the story of the child and his dysfunctional parents is just a metaphor. Or is it the other way around? Or is it none of the above? With the way Wah-Wah is made, you can't really tell what it was trying to aim at.
The story is interesting and the film is mildly entertaining, but it's neither here nor there in the sense of you not being able to tell what it is trying to do to you. It reminded me a lot of The Squid and the Whale, which is another story of a family breakup that doesn't have much more to say on top of the family breakup.
Best scene: The mother returns home after several years away and the boy is ecstatic; then he finds out why she came back home and the boy is shattered. Nicely done.
Picture quality: Pretty bad, although I've seen worse. It's hard to tell whether the quality is bad because of poor production values on what is pretty obviously a low budget film or whether it is bad because of poor DVD mastering (this DVD came from the same company that did the worst job ever on Fast Food Nation; it's not as bad, but there are obvious signs of a shoddy job).
Sound quality: Surround effects are limited to the occasional music. Pretty elementary, that is.
Overall: 2.5 out of 5 stars. It's not bad, but it doesn't take off.