A movie needn’t be gargantuan in order to be excellent — small stories, stories of humans living their lives, can contain multitudes of meaning that even the sweepingest and epicest of sweeping epics fail to tune in on.

Case in point: director Ekwa Msangi‘s feature length debut Farewell Amor. The story is a simple one: Esther (Zainab Jah) and her daughter Sylvia (Jayme Lawson) have arrived in New York City, reconnecting with Walter (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine), Esther’s husband and Sylia’s father, after over a decade of estrangement. Walter came to America in order to provide financial support for his family, but the consequences of his move were emotional as well.

The key conceit of the film is that it replays the first few days after the pair’s arrival thrice, each time from the perspective of a different central character. It’s a bit gimmicky, but Msangi’s talent behind the camera holds it all together quite well. We are give fleeting access to the interiority of each character, never enough to know them deeply but enough to feel connected with their story. It doesn’t draw you in; it whispers, inviting you to lean closer.

Those looking for a moving story on the difficulties of immigration will find one here, but Farewell Amor is also something much deeper. It’s the story of a specific family with universal pains, one that simply cannot be resolve in a 95 minute film. This is a film embracing its own complexity. A little falls through the cracks, sure, but you leave with a handful of something deep.

Read more about: