Forget the story.
Forget the acting.
Forget the hype.
Go see Kpali the movie for the aerial shots that make Lagos look nothing like the chaotic urban conurbation we all love to hate.
Ladi Johnson and his DoP get full marks for producing a crisp, visually stunning film.
But movies are much more than cinematography and visual clarity. Movies have to be visceral and relatable and realistic in a way that approaches verisimilitude.
Kpali ticks all those boxes as a movie revolving around a 20 something year old Amaka Kalayo whose sedate London life is set on a roller coaster when her bosses inform her that she has 30 days to close a big deal or lose not just her job but her Kpali; her visa, work permit and right to live and work in the UK.
Thrust into this career maelstrom, Amaka departs for Nigeria with her oyinbo male colleague in tow. They arrive Lagos and for some curious reason head together to Amaka’s family home and thus ensues the comedy of errors that is almost always at the heart of a true rom-com.
Kpali is funny, quirky, relatable and clear in the audience it addresses itself to.
It has Nkem “Osuofia” Owoh as well as Seyi law for the laughs. When Amaka’s colleague introduces himself as Jake Hunter, Nkem Owoh’s character asks – “Who is the hunted?”
But it is not the ha-ha moments that hold the most appeal, it is those moments where the actors throw a curveball, where you, as the audience, has been led a certain way and then surprised by something least expected.
A case in point is where Jidenna looks deep in Amaka’s eyes on their first date and while you are cringing and hoping he doesn’t say “I love you” or “I want to marry you” he says something completely asinine but which cracks every one up.
This is a movie for Naija millennials, young career minded Nigerians living within or outside the country and trying to find that elusive balance between work and living. They are educated, well-travelled, savvy and eloquent in the lingo of the internet generation.
But no matter how world savvy they are, they remain at the core, Nigerians who have to answer to their parents and bring a man or woman to perpetuate the family line.
Kpali is exciting to watch because it presents a movie that proceeds along multiple narrative strands. This is important in holding audience attention. There is the work angle with Amaka running against the clock to get the deal sealed but thrown into the mix is the emotional angle as Amaka begins to catch feelings not just for one but two men and then there is the IJGB angle, with Amaka as a potential “I Just Got Back” whose encounter with Nigeria begins to give her a fresh perspective to things.
By proceeding along these disparate trajectories, Kpali addresses itself to multiple audiences many of whom will find at least one strand appealing enough to go see the movie.
Ms. Okojie is a delight as leading lady. Her choice of outfits are spot on especially for a corporate highflier something Nollywood hardly ever gets right and her face is a study in emotional turmoil from hearing the news to running into Jake Hunter at the airport to taking a call from her parents, her pretty face is a mobile signboard of emotions.
Her attempts to get past IK Osakioduwa’s character is ennobling because it quickly helps situate her in a different context where she is seen as not just a pretty face but one with brains and business savvy.
The key message though is that when the world seems to be crashing all around you, take out time and seek a change of scene. It often provides fresh perspectives. Amaka is suddenly no longer all about work. She is finally stopping to smell the roses and let the petals of her heart unfurl to the kiss of the sun of love. Where does she find love? Who does she choose between the two men who make her heart go boom? Head to the cinema.
But Kpali is not a perfect film. There are contrived scenes especially when she gets her phone snatched. You have to wonder why she had to wind her window down or that market scene where Jake buys that hideous bag.
But as Nollywood movies go, this is a feel good romp and a very relatable movie that will appeal to millennials who are battling that transition from dependency to independence while evading that pesky question – Nne, when are you getting married?
Kpali hits cinemas, nationwide, today, Friday, December 20, 2019
•Toni Kan, award-winning writer and critic, writes from Lagos.