I am not a big fan of so called Romcoms, romantic comedies, thank you.
And the reason is simple, most filmmakers never get it and so what you end up seeing on screen is some schmaltzy, maudlin and saccharine fare zig-zagging its way to the final kiss.
So, I was a bit apprehensive when the invite came for a private screening of When Love Happens starring my favourite actors, OC Ukeje and Gideon Okeke as well as newbie, Weruche Opia.
Call it a pleasant surprise and you would just begin to get it. This Seyi Babatope movie When Love Happens is a delightful romp, a surprising take on a young woman’s almost desperate and often comical quest to snag a man for herself.
Mo, the young woman in question, is awakened by a phone call from an old friend, Jennifer who announces with glee that her boyfriend has just proposed. The news instead of filling her with joy leaves her feeling that the universe is in conspiracy to keep her man-less. “I better pass that girl, na” she says which brings us to two very unique qualities of this movie.
One is the narrator role played by Mo who not only keeps a Vlog but also plays narrator who brings us up to speed with who is whom and what makes them tick. Her frequent pidgin English interjections help provide the movie with a Nigerianness and authenticity that helps us look beyond the gloss and wealth.
The director’s style of freezing the frame to better anchor the moment is fresh and innovative as far as Nollywood goes and also very well realised.
And in using the Vlog, When Love Happens might have inadvertently positioned itself as the first Nollywood movie to exploit social media in a social media obsessed country like Nigeria.
But Mo’s man hunt is somewhat quixotic because while she is scouring the internet, going on blind dates and kissing the proverbial frogs before she meets her prince charming, the man of her dreams is sitting right there before her, hiding, as it were, in plain view.
And so at the end we return almost to that famous Hamlet-like soliloquy; Tobe or not Tobe?
The script is tight, the plot coheres and dialogue is razor sharp. There is sarcasm aplenty and the actors go toe-to-toe without anyone feeling a need to over-act.
When Tobe says to Mo, “I need you to start seeing me,” Mo replies with “I see you” leaving the audience in stitches.
Casting can make or mar a movie, especially when it is a drama and a comedy but here, the casting director did an excellent job with actors matched impressively to roles
The bitchy Jennifer played by Beverly Naya is a royal pain in the arse. She is rich, arrogant and unashamedly nasty.
Newbie leading lady, Weruche Opia who plays Mo is impressive. First off, it takes foolishness or chutzpah or both for a debutante actress to appear on screen sans make up but she pulls it off with aplomb
Her character is young and yet together, needy yet nurturing, messy yet wholesome. She is a breath of fresh air and her constant asides in pidgin, her monologues, all add up to make her a star to watch in Nollywood.
Plus not forgetting the fact that if she was just a bit taller, she would be a spitting image of Sanaa Lathan.
The chemistry between her parents played by former Nollywood bad boy, Keppy Ekpeyong and Shaffy Bello is real and almost catching. The choice of both as a couple is pure magic.
Nollywood heartthrob, OC Ukeje nails this one as the cocky and emotionally challenged Laguda scion. He is sure, confident and unrepentant. OC Ukeje remains a delight as he reprises in a way, his Alan Poza persona.
But it is Gideon Okeke who plays against type to devastating effect. His turn on MNet’s long running TV series, Tinsel, has left us with the image of a cocky, swashbuckling gigolo. Here he is reduced to no more than a slobbering love struck young man who can’t even express his feelings. And who ever came up with the Tobe Okoronkwo moniker is a genius; Gideon looked very much like an Okoronkwo.
Radio and tv personality, Oreka Godis is a delight as confidante and side kick while Wale Ojo fits in his well-heeled father role.
Over all. this is a delightful movie that does Nollywood proud even though it could have done without Desmond Eliot and that scene where Mo saunters in through open doors and wanders upstairs to Mr. Laguda’s room.
When Love Happens opens in cinemas today.
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