Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Movie Review: Letters to a stranger

Title: Letters to a Stranger (LTAS)

Starring: Genevieve Nnaji, Fred Amata, Yemi Blaq, Elvina Ibru, Ibinabo Fiberesima, Joke Silva, Eucharia Anunobi

Producer: Fred Amata

Director: Fred Amata

Year: 2007

Country: Nigeria

Genre: Romance

Language: English

Availability: Check the big three. That is where I got mine. You may want to call them first. It’s an older movie so they may not keep it in stock. If you find it, it’s most definitely a keeper

Preamble: Nollywood could conveniently be called lovewood, because most of the movies produced therein are sappy, cheesy, drippy love stories - which is why guys hate the movies, and women love them (in general). However, there are love stories, and there are LOVE stories and this one can actually be categorized as a LOVE story. It’s that good.


Summary: Ms Nnaji is Jemima, a management consultant. She lives in Abuja, and she is having relationship problems. You see, Jemima is kind of engaged to be married to Frederick (Fred Amata), who is a workaholic and a momma’s boy. His momma is played by the elegant Joke Silva. After Frederick (Never Fred!!) bungles the wedding proposal, and she misses a work deadline, she is forced by her boss (Eucharia Anunobi) to take her annual leave to go sort herself and her feelings out. She heads to Lagos with her insanely lively friend Tare (Elvina Ibru) who hates Frederick and thinks she should dump him. In Lagos, where her newly wed sister Kemi (played by Ibinabo Fiberesima) also lives, the plan is for her to get some rest and sort out whether or not she can live with Frederick’s work and Momma absorption. But when she tries to call her sister and instead dials a wrong number, the plans for a peaceful leave are turned upside down. The number she called by mistake turns out to belong to the unbelievably charming Sadiq (played by Yemi Blaq). He calls her back on a whim (I believe it was writer’s block), and a love triangle promptly ensues. Who does Jemima choose: Frederick or Sadiq?

Positives: One of my favorite love stories out of Nollywood ever. It’s charming, it’s romantic, and even very funny in places. I had seen Yemi Blaq in several movies before this, and I was never really impressed. He was outstanding in this one. Definitely a breakout movie for him. After LTAS, his place as a leading man in Nollywood was definitely sealed. The chemistry between him and Genevieve was absolutely off the charts. And while most of the “toasting” lines in naija movies are very corny, cheap, poorly thought out and just flat out puke inducing, Yemi Blaq got every woman to fall in love with him along with Genevieve with some very, very, veeeeery smooth lines. Oooooooh baby!! There was a particular scene where he was unloading his feelings, where Genevieve just looked overwhelmed. Quite honestly, I don’t know if she was acting or just responding. The guy was WORKING IT!! Genny has had a lot of practice playing the love interest, and she does a great job in this one as always. Elvina Ibru’s debut as the crazy friend was interesting – you either love her or find her infinitely annoying. I loved her. I thought the crazy worked well, though others might think that she was a little over the top. I loved the background music – perfect fit, created the right mood, most delightful! And the picture quality was fabulous – I loved the colors, particularly in Tare’s house. The colors were just so vibrant and rich and warm and delightful. And the outfits – the ladies were rocking some very chic outfits – a feast for the eyes most definitely. Some of the colors and styles that Ibinabo was wearing were totally fabulous. I was most pleased!

Negatives: Fred Amata and Ibinabo. They were not bad, they were competent, they just were just relatively weak links in an outstanding cast. To keep up with Yemi and Genevieve, they had to bring their A game, and they kinda brought their B+ game. They were not as vibrant as the rest of the cast. It is time for Mr Amata, who directed a most delightful movie to get behind the camera and stay there. The days of “Mortal Inheritance” are long over. Time to move on to more promising activities. He is obviously a great director and we hope for many more delightful pieces from his stable.
There were other issues – the number of days of her leave did not seem to add up to 31, and then there is the little issue of Jemima getting gifts when Fred did not know where she lived (unless of course we assume that the office sent them, which could have been made a little more explicit). Also the underlying assumption is that Fred did not know Tare (her friend) was a little odd. And when the family emergency occurred, all he had to do was call her sister to pass the news on to Jemima since he was obviously talking to the sister. So there were a few logical inconsistencies in there. In addition, who invites a man you have never met to your house in LAGOS? U craze? There are aspects of this movie you have to suspend unbelief to be able to accept. The good news is that its so well made, you find yourself so wrapped up in the characters that you are willing to suspend reason – until the movie is over then you start asking questions.

Underlying theme/lessons/worldview/philosophy: This movie one most single girls can connect with. There comes a time in your life when you wonder – is a bird in hand really worth two in the bush? I can do better than my present life can’t I? You know, get a better man, a more interesting life. Like Jemima said, “I want romance, I want love, I want affection, I want MORE!!” This is a movie about wanting more out of life and love, when the grass on the other side looks greener, when you long with Dorothy for that magical land somewhere over the rainbow. When you are so tempted to abandon the boring but familiar, for the intriguing unknown. That is why I love this movie so much – it connected with me on a gut level. And of course, Yemi Blaq’s little love speech did not hurt either. I have watched the movie several times with several young ladies, and the response to that scene is always “Awwwwwwww!” Just warms your heart!

Most definitely recommended. Did I say it was one of my favorite romantic Nigerian movies?

p.s Note to Yemi Blaq : I dunno if you will ever read this, but if you do, I beg of you, stop accepting all these hamburger roles, ehn? Abeg, biko? After LTAS, I started to buy everything with you in it, and let’s just say that I WILL NOT be reviewing any of them on this site. LTAS was a gourmet meal in a five star restaurant, while almost everything I have seen you in after that has been a cold, unevenly cooked, tasteless hamburger. “My Idol” left a particularly bitter taste in my mouth!

I will admit though that you started to climb back into my good graces with "Distance Between". Please do more of that and less of that other stuff.
Thanks boo. Still love you though.

Rating: 8.5/10

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