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It is no pleasure to give an unfavourable review to a first-time female film-maker of colour – a perennially underrepresented sector of cinema – but in all honesty, this amateurish drama is hard to recommend to a paying audience. Written, directed and co-starring Clare Anyiam-Osigwe – by day, a dermatologist and skincare entrepreneur – No Shade is more on the level of a student project than a commercial release and despite having some relevant points to make, it lacks the conviction to drive them home.
The topic is colourism: prejudice against darker-skinned people within the same ethnic group, in this case Londoners of African descent. Freelance photographer Jade (Adele Oni) is unlucky in her love life and feels her blackness might be the cause. Wigs and weaves and skin-lightening creams bring little solace, nor do a series of unsuccessful dates. One potential suitor is disappointed that Jade is darker-skinned (and older-looking) in real life than her online profile suggested. “You black chicks have got to stop this fakery,” he tells her. That’s as subtle as the message gets.
Jade’s main crush and childhood friend Danny (Kadeem Pearse), meanwhile, prefers “lighties” and never finds love as a result. Meanwhile her best friend (played by the director) is about to marry a more decent man, but is anxious about the threat from his (lighter-skinned) ex-girlfriend.
These elements could make for a decent romcom but the register here is earnest romantic drama, and it is painful to watch at times. The whole affair feels stilted and artificial. The cast seem like non-professionals, the characters are flimsy, the dialogue unnatural and laden with on-the-nose platitudes. And for a film addressing worthwhile issues of beauty – outer and inner, and the prejudices around it – it rarely rises above the superficial.
Source: The Guardian
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