I try my best to be generous BUT if I do not hold Nollywood accountable, who will? I really loved the trailer, was hooked and it made me pen this down for review (I like to think I only review art or attempts at art; I cannot watch or review everything). I was greatly looking forward to it. For all its promise, I would have to score this 5.5/10. Insensitive to the effort put into the story, camera, lighting, and noir theme. Hopefully, I can justify this unfair judgement. Let us use the feedback sandwich for this one:
- Casting and Actors: Full marks for cast. Puzo will describe them as Bankable stars. Najite Dede (Sarah) did a good job, Funlola Aofiyebi-Raimi is an acting goddess and Femi Jacobs steals all screen attention. He is easily the best actor in Nigeria really. Straight from his first scene, he sold the idea of unhinged therapy, floats the idea of some underlying conspiracy and kickstarts the suspense. The choice for young and old characters was spot-on.
- Details: The envelope, newspaper column, typewriter, post office even down to biscuit type/style. The crew really did throw it back. I loved the line “make her believe she is actually in 1999.” They did sell the 99′ dream, to her and the audience. I have Inception as my favourite movie of all time, and I love when movies give a nod to “creation.” That’s what it is all about, creating a setting, creating a scene, a story. Mrs. Lawal, the Director is the maid, significant?
- Costume and Make Up: CGPA 4.8, that’s first class, right? Shame they didn’t let us see the perfect red dress.
- Camera & Lighting: This is Mr. Niyi’s forte eh, all his movies have superb quality in common among other things. The immersive angles and shots, colour, the noir theme, all great movie magic. Excellently done, kudos to the crew.
- Politically Charged: We cannot stop telling the story of our politics and this is a timely reminder of the wickedness/ruthlessness of our political or ruling class. Movies cannot help but sell Peter Obi (Azor Ahai) in some way, a candidate accepted by all up against one with a shady past, implicating documents, forgery et al. It also highlights the role of journalists in democracy at Panam needing to get something published to save the nation (Thank you Mr. Hundeyin).
Now to the crux of this sandwich
- Attention: It assumed it had me (the audience) by the balls, yes you had me but there is a fine line at holding my attention. It wasn’t paced right. Some scenes dragged on (for effect yes, but too long), I have seen it, I understand, now get on with it. In a world full of distractions (Tik Toks and all), impatient movie watchers would just hit the fast forward. Prayer to the jinx god, I also need my readers to read to the end of this article (we have a World Attention Crisis)
- Focal point: This brilliant story showcased loads: politics, psychiatry, loyalty, motherly love, romance, newspaper columning. Books, series, and seasons can be churned off any of these topics, still, you need a FOCAL point. Pick one and treat it like the star of the show it is. Don’t have all themes running amok. Psychological thriller? It failed to thrill with romance being the one that stuck, at some point it became a casual watch, nothing was riding on Sarah remembering, no edgy feel. “Daniel” was treated as the BIG REVEAL rather than what happened to lock Sarah’s memory. Sarah and Panam, the two characters we are trained to care about the most would have benefitted from more screen time. Might just be me or a change in the sequence would have helped.
- House of secrets: Art is usually not literal but again just like The Set Up (Plot twist overkill), we have a secret rush. The movie tries to inject something unknown in each act without accounting for its weight on the story.
- Details (Double edged sword details): Little drops of errors make an ocean. The fire service call, who calls an emergency help line and goes “we are in need of your services.” Soundtrack was great but noisy at some point. Fight scenes and action sequence were done with minimal effort (we must admire Tom Cruise’s dedication eh). The one with Panam and Malik was good, others were not, I laughed at the “friends in the force” bit. You should TRAIN and practice for action sequence plus seek advice from stunt men and women. The mental home drug cups over dispensing envelopes or spoon and plastic grey medicine containers, the numbered ward clothing, fiction yes but it helps to present Nigeria’s reality. The lace front wig in 1999 (I didn’t point this one out myself, read it off a colleague’s blog). Aged Sarah appearing not to drink the zobo in the cup. Period lingo consistency and last but the biggest THE FIRE.
Well, I do not have bread for the top side, this wouldn’t be getting my nod for the Original screenplay or story award (not like my nod remotely counts). Again Mr. Niyi’s movies are yet to impress (me), I mean he directed Chief Daddy with a straight face. Still, he is one of the top directors in our industry and I know he will come good. We have more Businesspeople in Nollywood than Artists who truly care about CREATION. Create ART and it would go far and wide, create “marketable” and you get just that (money in your pocket). I will love to see Anthill studios deliver League of Orisha and Malika like projects with accompanying marketing and publicity. Hollywood is crumbling on the altar of wokeness, we can seize the moment and make movies that feed the soul and stop piling on forgettable movies.
One man’s poison is another’s meat (Praise for The House of Secrets @ Janelle’s Nollywood Diary). By all means do see this movie if you have a Prime account or get from you-know-where.