Based on the 2009 memoir by William Kamkwamba, this real-life drama is about a 13-year-old boy in Malawi who helps his village by building a wind turbine after reading about them in a school library book.
Earnest to a fault, “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” is effective matter-of-fact storytelling, although it is a slow build to its touching finale.
Purchased by Netflix at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the film will be in theaters briefly. While conventional, it is an inspiring family film and the child at the center is indeed exceptional.
The actors are convincing, and the convey the depth of the gut-wrenching hardships. William (Maxwell Simba), a dutiful son of farmer Trywell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his wife Agnes (Aissa Maigi), has a curious mind, but their economic situation means he can’t go to school full-time.
They are a poor struggling farm family, like many in their region, for a long dry season prevents them from growing crops. With drought and famine making people desperate, extreme measures are needed.
William’s ingenuity and determination saves his village, and leads to scholarships, and his eventual book about the real-life happy ending.
Ejiofor, the accomplished Oscar-nominated actor, has directed his first movie with a steady hand – and wrote the adaptation. At Sundance, he won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize, which is given to a feature film that focuses on science or technology as a theme, or depicts a scientist, engineer, or mathematician as a major character.
As a rookie, Ejiofor errs on the side of compassion and conviction while making sure he doesn’t leave out anything in connecting a series of problems and conflicts. But it could have been tightened up – and the resolution is much too quick for the 90-minute prelude.
Yet, there is not a false note, and besides – what an incredible story.