This is a feel-good, true story with a modicum of inferred hardship. Much like Lion, Katwe tries to stay focused on the positive while allowing the darkest part of the story to stay at the fringes of the camera’s vision. The value of the positive role models in this tale offsets some of that concern. It is also a wonderful reminder and example that intellect has nothing to do with circumstances, though opportunity certainly plays into the ability to take advantage of it.
David Oyelowo (Selma) and Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) are both impressive in their roles. However, it is newcomer Madina Nalwanga who is the center of this story. And that is, perhaps, the biggest aspect that challenges this film. In trying to tell the whole story, which began with with a short film, “A Fork, A Spoon, and a Knight” about Oyelowo’s character, it is unfocused for the first half of its run-time. It isn’t uninteresting, nor uncompelling, but it isn’t crisp.
The award winning director Mira Nair and writer Wheeler reteamed after The Reluctant Fundamentalist to deliver this adaptation of Crothers’ ESPN article and subsequent book. It is easy to see what the attraction was in the material but, as I mentioned, they resisted cutting out material to focus it more cleanly. It is, admittedly, a tough story to simplify. All three main characters are interesting and it is the combination of their interaction and efforts that bring about the results. The main challenge is how the groundwork gets laid in the first half of the tale; this is where the fracturing of what we are learning weakens the overall results as a film even if it doesn’t affect the message. Regardless of this fumble, the story is entrancing and worth seeing for adults and children, of tween age and above, alike.