Far From Home, a Netflix original and its first Nigerian young adult show follows the story of ‘A financially struggling teen finds himself in the world of luxury after a prestigious scholarship sends him to an exclusive school for the one percent’, as the synopsis declares.
The first episode opens with Ishaya, the show’s protagonist, being celebrated at the grand opening of his first art exhibition; cameras are flashing, there is an adoring audience awaiting his presence, and the star of the moment arrives in a swanky sports car to the admiration of the audience. As Ishaya basks in the moment and gives his speech on success and gratitude to Essien, a genius in the art space who took him in as an apprentice and changed his life, his beautiful reality is abruptly disoriented by his sister, Rahila, and he wakes up from his dream to the real world where he has to hurriedly get dressed and follow his mother to her cleaning job.
The first episode and opening to the show do a great job of grounding what we need to know, and should expect as the story develops; Ishaya is an artist whose dreams are limited by his family’s financial status, his father is confined to a wheelchair and can’t work and his mother is a cleaning woman. Ishaya and his sister are not in school, and he works 3 jobs while still dedicating himself to his craft. When Ishaya meets up with his friend Michael later in the day, we find out that his work has fallen under the radar of Essien, Ishaya’s idol in the art scene, who has selected Ishaya as his apprentice for an art fellowship but Ishaya does not have the finances to fund his travel to London where the fellowship will take place. And herein lies our talented artist’s stumbling block and the origin of all the conflict that builds up till the fifth and final episode.
What stands out for me in this show? It has to be the people. From the people of Isale-Eko, to the Rush gang, and the Wilmer squad, everyone brought their A-game. While many Nigerian shows and movies in the past have fallen into the trap of using a star-studded cast to seduce its audience and have them overlook the show’s shortcomings, Far From Home flips the script and does the exact opposite of that.
The show does a great job with the very fresh casting. While there are a lot of faces we are familiar with, mostly playing supporting roles in other movies or tv shows, the show’s characters are mostly played by actors that the audience will be seeing playing lead roles for the first time on screen, and they all shine.
Micheal Afolarin’s performance as ambitious and self-absorbed but still kind Ishaya Bello is so good, it looks effortless, Tomi Ojo who plays Ishaya’s younger sister, Rahila holds her own rather well even with the limited screen time.
Moshood Fattah’s heartfelt portrayal of Michael, Ishaya’s supportive friend who helps him with funds raising and even takes a few blows on his account brings a refreshing and strong portrayal to a character that could have been easily forgettable.
Elma Mbadiwe, Genoveva Umeh, Olumide Oworu, Emeka Nwagbaraocha, Ruby P. Okezie, Natse Jemide, and Raymond Umenze who play Carmen, Zina, Atlas, Frank, Nnenna, Reggie, and Denrele who make up the Wilmer student squad are fun to watch as elite upper-class young adults.
Elma elegantly portrays Carmen, your typical, seemingly model student who is breaking down slowly under all the pressure to be perfect and her painkillers addiction after a traumatic accident. Olumide as Atlas, Elma’s cheating boyfriend delivers a convincing performance as resident Wilmer asshole/artist, who might also just be a lonely, vindictive man with absent parents.
Genoveva as free-spirited, fun Zina is so delightful to watch, and her romance with sweet and chill Reggie who is played smoothly by Natse Jemide is so adorable, it checks all the ‘young love’ boxes (more of this in season 2, please).
Emeka gives us a very lovable character in Frank, and Ruby's Nnenna is a character that the audience will be exhausted by and empathize with at the same time. Raymond Umenze’s Denrele, a lonely, awkward young man who can’t seem to make any friends at Wilmer, but who we also know has a mean streak deep down in him because of how he treated Ishaya earlier is very interesting to watch.
Gbubemi Ejeye’s performance as Adufe, Ishaya’s scorned ex-girlfriend turned lover to crime boss, Oga Rambo and a force to be reckoned with is also one for the books, big props to how she artfully brought her character to life.
The on-screen chemistry between the actors, both seasoned and new comes off so naturally, the acting on this show is almost seamless. There are no filler or caricature characters, and the audience will find themselves invested in everyone’s story, some more than others naturally.
The audience will also find that the show resolves the social media, particularly Twitter, uproar on the physical appearances of the actors playing Wilmer Academy students being too old for secondary school students. Wilmer Academy, where major parts of the story play out, is more of an A-levels college and is an academic institution in between Secondary school and University, which means it is not out of place for students to be in their early twenties, have beards, and be under little to no disciplinary supervision.
Overall, the show makes for an entertaining experience if you focus mostly on the characters, the great music, and how the narratives play out and ignore the inevitable plot holes and the hasty resolution in the final episode.