Writer/director: Clare Anyiam-Osigwe
Cast: Jade Asha, Lonyo Engele, Shone Romulus, Adele Oni, Judith Jacob, Veronica Jean Trickett
Release date: Out now
Reviewer: Charlotte Harrison
The all-too brief spell of No Shade in UK cinemas in November 2018 makes Clare Anyiam-Osigwe, the film’s director and writer, only the sixth black female director to have her film get a UK cinema release. Whilst an alarmingly low statistic, it is a huge achievement for Anyiam-Osigwe, that is made even more impressive upon watching this, her directorial debut.
Jade (Adele Oni) is a successful freelance photographer who has been hopelessly in love with her best friend Danny (Kadeem Pearse) since they met at university. Not that she’s actually told him; she can’t bring herself to. He’s aware of it but has no plans on altering their relationship. When Danny starts going out with Andrea (Sharea Samuels), Jade starts dating with a new level of intent, leading her to a series of challenging encounters that force her to reflect on what is stopping her from getting her happy ever after.
The film has the material to be something of a light-hearted romantic comedy; instead, Anyiam-Osigwe has made something more serious, which is light on both romance and comedy. The result is a film that feels honest, occasionally brutally so, about society’s views when it comes to complexion and skin tone. How Jade feels about her shade impacts every aspect of her life. From her feeling unable to tell Danny how much she loves him to the varying different ways her clients respond to her, and the numerous dates along the way.
It’s those dates that really stand out in the film. Each is bad in a different way, and very rarely is this down to Jade. The terrible men she dates are united by one defining factor: they want to date a black woman, as long as she’s pale-skinned. Their judgements of Jade are brutal and the impact they have on her feels believable. The awful dates themselves are likely to strike rather close to home for anyone who’s utilised a dating app; there’s a grim sense of uncomfortable recognition at her various companions’ dating ‘patter’ which regularly veers into insult territory. Her confessionals with her closest female friend Carla (played by Anyiam-Osigwe herself), which are regularly post-date, are some of the film’s finest moments. During these scenes, Jade and Carla cover the film’s admirably worthy themes, about relationships and love, and the impact expectations linked to race can have upon them.
With this film, Anyiam-Osigwe shows herself to be a writer/director with a lot to say and whole lot of potential.