Julien Neaves, Caribbean Head Writer
Ah the mango. Such a delicious and versatile fruit. It is juicy when ripe, can be made into a “chow” (savoury snack with salt, pepper, chadon beni/culantro) when half ripe or green, or you can turn it into a smoothie. And the mango is also a metaphor for the romance in 2001 Antiguan feature The Sweetest Mango.
Based on a true story by Howard and Mitzi Allen and directed by the former, the film tells the story of an art director named Lovelyanne “Love” Davies (Jermilla Kirwan) who returns to Antigua from Toronto after 21 years. In her new job she finds love with friendly co-worker and aspiring singer Richard (Omar Mathurin) but also catches the eye of her boss Deke (Mervyn Richards).
The Sweetest Mango is a light, slice of life, no-frills romance. Kirwan as Love is, well, lovely, and she is a warm and strong woman, though with a penchant for running away when things get tough. She has a deep love for Antigua and part of her story arc is reacclimatizing to island life. It was refreshing to see a former expatriate embracing their homeland rather than the trope of feeling that foreign is better. Part of her reeducation comes from her free-spirited godsister Parker (Janil Greenaway) who is a fun character. We follow Love as she picks mangoes, struggles to order food at a fast food restaurant, has fun at a club, and enjoys the tranquility of one of Antigua’s 365 beaches (one for every day of the year as they say). It is during her mango-picking adventure she meets Richard for the first time before later discovering he works at the communications company where she is taking up her new position. Small world, smaller country I always say.
Most of the first half of the film is spent with Love in her job with Richard, Deke, an acerbic and nosy assistant named Belle (Denise Francis), and others. It then transitions into her relationship with Richard and they have an easy-going if at times corny chemistry. And the film should be a treat to Antiguan music lovers, and Caribbean music lovers generally, as it features a breezy mix of soca, calypso, dancehall, R&B and even a steelpan scene.
The film has its flaws though. The central conflict lacks build-up and only gets heated very late in the story. And the theme of following your dream and finding yourself is surface at best. But there is an audience for a paint-by-numbers romance flick especially with a beautiful island setting. So if you’re looking for that then I recommend taking a bite out of The Sweetest Mango.
Editor Jules’s Score: 6 out of 10
You can view the film for yourself on the Caribbean One TV app. And you can check out more great Caribbean film reviews below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.