Grief is not a tool commonly used in New Nollywood: there’s fatigue from seeing it used in the home video era and it’s simply not commercial enough and right now Nollywood is seeking to tell stories that could prove lucrative. Hence the surplus of love and laughter in our cinemas. Director Eneaji Chris working with a script by Doris C. Ariole tries to fill that void with this sometimes joyful, mostly somber movie.
Void stars Fredrick Leonard and Lota Chukwu as Tonna and Tina; a happy couple whose relationship is threatened by the presence of Tonna’s late wife, Mirabel. Tonna proposes to Tina and she accepts joyfully but like in many moments in the film, their happiness is cut short by the looming presence of Mirabel.
Mirabel had a dying wish, she wants Tonna to marry a woman who will love him enough to be a surrogate mother for their child. The idea is, the baby is going to fill the void created by her death. Tonna proposes the idea to Tina, who understandably rejects it. She leaves his apartment tearfully. In the scene that follows, her friend and roommate Angie is berating her for tolerating Tonna’s excesses—his apartment is littered with pictures of Mirabel, even the room he and Tina make love in—as that’s the only reason a man would make such an outlandish demand.
After some pleas and convincing, Tina agrees to carry Tonna and Mirabel’s child and this marked the beginning of their misfortunes as a couple and also the most interesting part of the movie. Each attempt to give her husband a baby for him and his late wife is marked by a miscarriage no one can explain and with each miscarriage, their marriage pulls further apart; Tonna sinks deeper in his melancholy as his grief comes to the surface and Tina’s grief gathers momentum.
The opening minutes of Void tries to portray the love and happiness of Tonna and Tina’s relationship while preparing viewers for the calamity that will befall them later. This part is slowly paced and once you get past it, you see the good stuff.
The story explored loss in a way that’s supposed to evoke tears and pity because the amount of loss suffered by Fredrick Leonard’s Tonna is incredible, yet the movie doesn’t do enough to be a convincing tearjerker. The fitting somber music could not save it and this is partly because of the lack of chemistry between Fredrick Leonard and Lota Chukwu and the director not getting the best out of his actors consistently.
Fredrick Leonard is excellent in scenes involving Chioma Akpotha’s Mirabel but struggles when it involves Lota Chukwu’s Tina; his eyes fail him when he tries to show he is dying on the inside. Leonard’s Tonna is most comfortable and believable during flashbacks of happy moments with his late wife. Lota Chukwu also fails to convince on her building grief and when sorrow hits a peak—Tonna abandons Tina her during last two miscarriages—her tantrums—breaking some of Mirabel pictures littered around the house—still do not win you over. The performances are not a cringe-fest, they are simply not consistent.
Maybe if the roles have been swapped and Akpotha played Tina while Chukwu played Mirabel, the film would have got the synergy it direly needs from its lead characters. Ultimately, there is a missed opportunity here: Void is a Nigerian love story told differently; however, portrayed unconvincingly.