Here Love Lies – love and desperation in the shadow of social media – Toni Kan

Tope Oshin, director, showrunner, producer and actor returns to the big screen with a riveting new movie, Here Love Lies, after an almost five-year hiatus.  

The movie had its premiere screening at the recently concluded +234 Connect Festival presented over Nigeria’s independence weekend at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.

Her last movie was the expansive Up North which starred Banky Wellington as a spoilt brat who goes for the mandatory national youth service and returns a changed man. In my review of the movie, I had described it as a “laugh-out-loud and thrilling joy ride which manages to tackle very serious subjects despite the levity.” I also noted that “social media is a character in Up North.”

Where comedy lay at the heart of Up North, something else lies at the heart of Here Love Lies. There is humour of course but levity is limited despite the best efforts of Kemi played by Omowunmi Dada who never quite seems to hit her strides in this film but more about that later.

As in Up North, social media is a character here too because it is the vehicle that propels much of the plot and takes our heroine to the film’s third location.

Here Love Lies which is already receiving plaudits is set in Port Harcourt, Lagos, and then New York. The film opens in Port Harcourt in the home of a clergyman played by Sam Dede. Reverend Abraham is a frowning man with a faulty moral compass. Amanda, his younger daughter, is pregnant and refuses to say who is responsible. The clergyman who frowns at pre-marital sex is not fazed by abortion.

‘You will do another test. We will go to a hospital far away from here. We will get the doctors to do whatever they need to do to make sure the result comes out negative,” he tells his daughter.

Their back and forth almost leads to tragedy and days later when he wakes up in the hospital, he curses his pregnant daughter. 

The next time we meet Amanda, she is in Lagos and working at a travel agency. She is also a blogger and single mom to a headstrong teenager. These two descriptors are important because her father pronounced a curse on his sick bed which had to do with the child in her womb. Secondly, it is blogging that leads her to America where she meets Michael played by Tim Shelburne. 

The older Amanda played by Tope Oshin in her first return to acting since her turn in Andy Amadi Okoroafor’s “Relentless” is a hardworking single mom who is unlucky in love; once she tells her love interests that she has a daughter, they take off. Tick that off as a consequence of the curse if you may.

But then she meets sweet-talking Jide played by Daniel Etim-Effiong and it seems the stars are about to align for her but then boom, the whole relationship collapses in a scene so painfully intense and yet so funny you will laugh just to stop yourself from crying.

Burnt and disappointed, Amanda has her guard up until a persistent online troll manages to finagle his way into her heart. What begins as a “say your piece and let’s move on” becomes a shot well-fired and egged on by Kemi, her roommate, Amanda opens up to the charming American who seems to have deep knowledge about Nigeria aside from their shared interests in travel.

Using a conference as an excuse to visit the US, Amanda jets off to New York with a plan to surprise Michael at his favourite eatery. She ends up almost being surprised by her planned surprise but all’s well that ends well or maybe not.

The seeming rom-com soon descends into noir-ish territory as Amanda discovers a new side to Michael. But before then, we are introduced to the most annoying character you might ever see in a movie. See whether you can spot her.

The descent into noir leads to a few head-scratching moments and a twist in an otherwise rom-com tale but it also helps to explain a restroom scene that seemed super-contrived and also the real meaning behind Michael’s words – “You will find it hard to leave!”.

Tope Oshin delivers both in front of and behind the camera as do her co-travelers. Moyo Lawal has a scene-stealing turn as the cheated-on-wife; Tina Mba is a study in contrasts as she struggles to balance her marital and maternal duties while Omozele Gabriel who plays the young Amanda delivers with admirable aplomb and controlled emotional gravitas. But it is Omowunmi Dada who seems a bit off. One of my favourite Nigerian actresses who has wowed on stage and screen, she seemed a tad-bit over-excited in this role.

All said, Tope Oshin’s Here Love Lies produced by her Sunbow Productions in collaboration with Leon Global Media extends the range of Nollywood with a production that spans continents. Her first film since she changed time zones, it is a well-helmed piece that calls attention to how easily a woman desperate for love can fall prey to the machinations of a predatory man because as Michael says in Pidgin “at all, at all na in bad pass.”

It is also a sad commentary on how social media can be both amazingly good and ugly beyond belief brewing heady cocktails from strange bedfellows.

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