Does a Nollywood romantic comedy have to be silly to be funny? It is a question many have asked one too many times. When people complain about Nollywood’s comedy obsession, sometimes, it is not because of their abundance, but their desperation for laughs; this was evident in last year’s Knockout, which felt like a series of Instagram skits. Ditto The Wedding Party 2, Merry Men 1, The Accidental Spy, etc. Dear Affy is the latest inductee into this Comedy Hall of Shame.
The story starts charmingly: girl meets boy; boy asks girl on a date, girl says no. Boy insists and gets a date. One date becomes two, and girl gets to see the man behind the player. A year later, boy proposes, girl says yes! Boy is Mike (Enyinna Nwigwe), girl is Affy (Kehinde Bankole). Nwigwe looks disinterested and Bankole’s acting needs direction to pass as believable (watch The Set Up).
As marriage plans are underway, Mike’s company enters a desperate financial situation, which also affects his plans for the wedding. To save his company and his wedding, Mike must deliver a contract worth hundreds of millions. But the contractor, Miss Anna Duke (Bimbo Akintola), wants to have a taste of him before she can sign. Of course, he refuses. Doesn’t love always win in a rom-com? Impressed by his actions, she signs the contract.
Both the company and Mike’s wedding are saved, then a nifty plot twist occurs and turns the film on its head. And while the film starts moving in this direction, another twist follows. Both twists are the most positive things about Dear Affy, but their effects are diluted by the story’s incoherence and the director’s incompetence.
The film’s premise is exciting, and under capable hands, it maybe would have been remarkable. But Samuel Olatunji, who produced the awful Ghost and the Tout is not exactly the filmmaker you expect brilliance from. However, you would be tempted to think otherwise given statements he made while promoting the picture. “Dear Affy is an ambitious project, we want to tell a different kind of Nollywood story, we want to be very professional and excellent in our doing,” he told This Day. “We want to provide 100% entertainment and unpredictable story at the cinema, and we have a cast of who-is-who that can deliver the perfect performance.”
That statement documents one of my gripes with Nollywood filmmakers who are full of bluster but empty on delivery. Dear Affy is far from ambitious and it isn’t entertaining; yes, you will get a few laughs here and there, but it makes for tedious viewing. The story is genuinely unpredictable (and the plot twists are delightful), but the execution is disappointing. And Olatunji’s talk of perfect performances from ‘who-is-who’ makes you wonder if Instagram comedians’ acting is now the benchmark of acting excellence. The film’s plot is unimaginative like most Nollywood rom-coms, and it is filled with stars to distract from its inadequacies. Three of the star cameos encapsulate Olatunji’s poor directing and the film’s futile desperation for laughs.
The first and most manageable comes from Toyin Abraham, who plays a relationship expert (think Joro). The second features fast-talking Instagram comedian, Mc Lively, playing a doctor version of his online persona – the scene he appears in serves the story no purpose but Makate Must sell. The third and most ridiculous features Teni, and her scene makes one wonder if this film has a director or if Teni has never seen people act before.
The problem isn’t casting non-actors; it’s not directing them. Lady Gaga gave a tour de force performance in A Star is Born. Reminisce was awesome in King of Boys. The problem is our filmmaker’s comfortability with mediocrity and continued disregard for the audience. At this stage, the audience will gladly accept a basic Nollywood rom-com; it doesn’t have to excellently reflect society’s misogyny like Isoken, or be fun like the original The Wedding Party. Just respect us and tell a story that’s not desperate for laughter! We know when you are trying too hard.