Netflix’s The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind Review

Maxwell Simba stars as William Kamkwamba in Netflix's The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Photo: Ilze Kitshoff / Netflix
Maxwell Simba stars as William Kamkwamba in Netflix’s The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Photo: Ilze Kitshoff / Netflix

With the growing number of streaming services churning out movies every month, memorable productions of high quality and heart are rare to find.

In addition, screen-writers are increasingly leaning on fantasy and sci-fi in order to teach their audiences lessons about our own real world.

However, among these forgettable films are a few shining gems that shed light on the human experience through the earnest and faithful retelling of inspiring factual events that speaks right to the soul.

One such gem is The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, based on the best-selling book of the same name and true-life events of William Kamkwamba, streaming now on Netflix.

A famous African proverb says that it takes a village to raise a child, but for one particular community in Malawi, it took a child to raise up a village.

In the early 2000’s, the African nation was suffering from long periods of drought and heavy rains, which affected harvests across the country.

With families dependant on good harvests to survive and a corrupted government with its own interests in mind, this instability had devastating effects for thousands in Rural Malawi.

William Kamkwamba (played by Maxwell Simba), a 13-year-old boy in the village of Wimbe, was from one of these affected families.

The Kamkwamba family face an uncertain future as drought ravishes their village's harvest. Photo: Ilze Kitshoff / Netflix
The Kamkwamba family face an uncertain future as drought ravishes their village’s harvest. Photo: Ilze Kitshoff / Netflix

While the harvest was good, William’s parents, Trywell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Agnes (Aïssa Maïga), were persistent in giving William an education as they did with his older sister Annie (Lily Banda).

As food became scarce and the village is plunged into chaos, William’s parents are unable to pay his tuition and eventually he is expelled from class.

Knowing that his education was to be the answer to his family’s woes, William uses his resourcefulness to continue studying on his own in the library.

With his newly gained knowledge William turns repurposing scraps and bicycle parts into an irrigation system that would go on to save the village, proving that necessity is the mother of invention.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, the directing and writing debut of actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, offers a remarkable portrait of life in rural Africa.

Though it deals with an array of complex issues, from climate change to corruption, Ejiofor’s script manages to address them in the peripheral while focusing on the family and the human struggle without the story feeling crowded and complicated.

This is partly due to the breathe-taking cinematography, which effectively highlights the harsh landscape and human distress, as well as the pacing of the story that slowly builds up fostering an emotionally invested audience.

Maxwell Simba is a standout in the lead role as the vulnerable child who, through the crucible of suffering, embraces the responsibility given to him through his gifts and education to become the village’s saviour.

With his soulful eyes and genuine charisma, Simba seamlessly shows the self-transition that William underwent without it coming across forced and unrealistic.

What seals Simba’s role is the honesty in his performance that radiates throughout the interpersonal and intergenerational conflict within the Kamkwamba family, particularly with William’s father.

Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance, as a flawed but well-intentioned father who is doing his best to secure his families future, is outstanding.

Ejiofor strips back his presence to allow Maxwell Simba the space to shine, but not to the detriment of his character’s own place in this inspirational story.

In taking the backseat, so to speak, Ejiofor is able to show the internal struggle that William’s father had to go through in putting his pride aside when it came time to trust the fate of the family’s future to his 13-year-old son.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, rated TV-PG, is a must-see film that has something powerful to teach all members of the family.

Children will be empowered by William’s courage and adults will relate to the parent’s struggles as they accept their need to seek help from their children.

Trywell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his son William (Maxwell Simba) share a joyful moment together. Photo: Ilze Kitshoff / Netflix
Trywell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his son William (Maxwell Simba) share a joyful moment together. Photo: Ilze Kitshoff / Netflix