Metascore
61

Generally favorable reviews - based on 25 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 25
  2. Negative: 1 out of 25
  1. Reviewed by: David Hughes
    80
    An unforced, engaging and surprisingly incisive account of the disintegration of British rule in Africa.
  2. 80
    Both acidly funny and very moving.
  3. 75
    Wah-Wah has a sequence, based on old newsreels, in which the flag is lowered and the sun sets on another bit of the empire. Odd how many critics have felt the whole movie should be about this. I don't see why. The story is about people who lived closed lives, and a film about them would necessarily give independence only a supporting role.
  4. Thanks to Grant's script and direction, the exotic Swaziland location (a film first) and an engaging cast, this smartly crafted drama radiates a gently comic pulse.
  5. The fascinating aspect of the rambling and involving film is how Ralph and this no-nonsense dame who married Dad become confederates.
  6. Grant is a fine actor ("Withnail and I," "Gosford Park") and, although he doesn't appear in Wah-Wah, his spiritedness as a performer carries through to some of the others in his cast.
  7. The film is so well acted -- by Byrne, who makes Harry's internalized agonies and continuously carried torch for his ex-wife touching, and by Watson and Hoult -- that its more cloying moments, including a staged version of the musical "Camelot" (which is too long), are a moot point.
  8. 75
    Wah-Wah can't sustain the mastery of its superior first hour, but it maintains a core of truth that sets it apart from less-convincing depictions of boys becoming men.
  9. Veteran actor Richard E. Grant makes his writing and directing debut with Wah-Wah, a startling portrait of his own startling and unusual childhood, growing up in Swaziland in the waning days of the British Empire in Africa.
  10. Reviewed by: Jeannette Catsoulis
    70
    Yet for all its studied snobbery and brittle entitlement, the film is never mean-spirited: even Ralph's monstrous parents are treated with more compassion than they deserve. Clearly, Mr. Grant's memories are more fond than bitter - even if the same probably can't be said of the Swazis.
  11. Reviewed by: Derek Elley
    70
    Flavorsome performances by a seasoned cast, held in check by Grant's traditional but well-crafted, always cinematic direction.
  12. Grant's unblinking but sympathetic depiction of this emotionally unhinged world makes the viewer feel like an illicit, enlightened gawker, and it has the enormous fringe benefit of fine performers, including Richardson, who puts endearing vigor into the adulterous Lauren, and Julie Walters, Ralph's aunt, who tells the boy her frequent tipsiness is a recurring case of "sunstroke."
  13. 67
    Never less than good but it's also never quite great.
  14. 63
    Wah-Wah's characters are wonderfully human and flawed and still capable of stirring empathy, which is appealing. But in the end, the film isn't saying much at all.
  15. 63
    Though the raw material is juicy stuff, the details and the larger picture never come together and the cast is uneven.
  16. 60
    Though far from expert filmmaking - visual clich├ęs fly thick and fast - the movie has a swooning feel for the stark beauty of the African kingdom in which it was shot.
  17. An overdeveloped coming-of-age potboiler.
  18. 58
    As in so many films directed by actors, there's a generosity shown to performance that results in many lifelike moments.
  19. Reviewed by: Jessica Reaves
    50
    There isn't enough heft to the story to pull everything together. Watching it is like trying to assemble a puzzle that's missing pieces.
  20. To label the parents in Wah-Wah dysfunctional doesn't adequately describe their wildly inappropriate behavior.
  21. 50
    As coming of age stories go, Wah-Wah does little to distinguish itself.
  22. About as gripping as its title.
  23. Reviewed by: Rob Nelson
    50
    That the film is semi- autobiographical for caustic actor-turned-writer-director Richard E. Grant helps explain its severely, sometimes laughably bitter tone.
  24. This is a hokey, old-fashioned melodrama in which the actors scream more often than necessary.
  25. 25
    The story lacks focus. The senses blur as wives and ex-wives come and go, and Harry regularly falls off the wagon, only to reform the next day.
User Score
7.9

Generally favorable reviews- based on 7 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 5
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 5
  3. Negative: 1 out of 5
  1. ChadS.
    Mar 29, 2007
    7
    Lauren(Miranda Richardson) wants to leave Swaziland because she's bored with life in the outback. Only incidentially does this British subject, this conscienceless woman of privilege, give something back to her adopted homeland. Lauren's gift is that she gets lost, if only for a little while. Her disdain for Africa seems so manifest, plot contrivance can be the only explanation for her return. "Wah Wah" is a film about people shut-off from the bigger picture. Through their eyes, Swaziland is simply home, and not the spoils that colonization entails. Even a nice American woman(or is she an "Ugly American" with manners) like Ruby(Emily Watson), who probably should know better(she lived through the Civil Rights Movement), never acknowledges her role of being an unwanted interloper. "Wah Wah" documents the end of British rule in the African colony, and thankfully, its subjects never express any remorse for their occupation. It would've felt tacked on, dishonest; because "Wah Wah" is about people whose arrogance has such a practiced sheen and polish, they turned their hubris into class. Their time in Swaziland may have been "Camelot" to them, but to the indigenous people, natives who Ralph(Nicholas Hoult) refers to as the subject of a National Geographic shoot, they probably suppressed the instinct to "kill a lot" behind their obedient, pacific faces when called upon to perform for their colonizers. Full Review »
  2. JonoN.
    Mar 12, 2007
    9
    Delightful, engrossing and thorougly entertaining.
  3. RobertI.
    Feb 26, 2007
    7
    Touches you emotionally in a way that an old-fashioned film can do: Swaziland becomes a metaphor for global change in the lives of strong characters.