If you are following British comedy-drama series Sex Education and agree that it is a boundary-breaching, dopamine-high and keen Young Adult/High School series, you should treat Netflix-powered Nollywood series Far from Home as a miniature version of the same genre. It’s not all that parallel, though. The premises and foci of both stories can hardly reach a truce. Chinaza Onuzo and Dami Elebe, creators of the bustling Nigerian Young Adult show, would not have embraced the dynamics of sex and gender with as much brazen liberalism as the Western counterpart. Though fathomable, the audacity would be inauspicious for a Nollywood filmmaker, considering how constant hints of homosexuality and gender fluidity are viewed as irreverent possibilities across Nigerian cultures.
Star-studded and set in the bustling city of Lagos, Nigeria, Far from Home explores—and, perhaps, this is a timely distraction for many Nigerians who are bewailing the drooping economy—themes of love, crime and betrayal in a cross-genre that incorporates tidbits of thriller and comedy. The filmmakers believe in a plot that is terse, yet it is not humour-shy. The result of this synergy is the story of a young man who, by hook or by crook, seeks to get into an arts fellowship with a London-based role model and become an accomplished artist and painter.
For Ishaya (Mike Afolarin), it’s not about the prestige associated with Wilmer Academy. Neither is it about any real commitment towards raising the standards of the family. Bristling with huge dreams in the slums of Islale Eko, the producers have crafted a budding young man (Ishaya) who, like ideal young men in popular fiction and film traditions, are inconsolably dissatisfied with the status quo and insatiably adventurous. All his motives are tied to a single-headed dream. But, as an overzealous protagonist, the passion drives him astray into the abyss of drug peddling and, yes, crime.
As sellable as the protagonist’s knavery is, it is not clear what point the filmmakers want to prove with him. That dreams should be pursued at the expense of an unstained reputation? What moral cards are they really playing when the protagonist does not get detained by the police for selling banned substances or for being involved in a kidnapping? Yes, he was cajoled into it, but he could have as well reached out to the police earlier, with the help of his rich-kid cronies, before things turned grave. We are also not sure of his age, even as a teenager. If he is 18+, as the subplot of his being sent away from the house by his biological mother suggests, should he not be liable for his allegiance to Government (Bucci Frankin) and Rambo (Bolanle Ninalowo)? If he is under 18, which contradicts his rather mature machinations, would it be a decent decision for the boy to be sent away from home in the first place? Such are things we cannot account for, unless season two emerges and fills the gap. But it appears that the filmmakers would be concerned about making further plot progressions rather than returning to fill and cement trivial plotholes.
What we know, at the twilight of this season, is that some poetic justice is served to the underworld kingpins (Government and Rambo) while the stooges (Ishaya and Adufe) are seemingly exonerated. Okay, Ishaya is given his marching orders from the college, which is fair enough knowing that he has secured the scholarship fraudulently. But what about his other misdeeds? Adufe, too, has had her own moral compromises when she was desperate to secure her future and didn’t mind dating a criminal. Doesn’t that make her a prime police target? Shouldn’t that desperation be duly punished? On the flip side, though, the overpowering of Rambo might have come too soon and cheap. Or is it not the same Rambo whose might and influence is trumpeted by him and his associates? Amidst these thoughts, the good news is that the show is still warming up, and there would be plenty of intrigue to catch up with. So, this might not be the right time for conclusive remarks.
There are budding backstories that we hope to see in proper light in a sequel. One is Atlas’s (Olumide Oworu) paternity conflict which is mildly filmed in a hasty flashback capturing a discussion between a lawyer and the young man, somewhere in episode 2 of this season. Another is the rushed familiarity between Rambo, Government and Mr. Bello (Ishaya’s father), the pre-existing relationship given up through Government’s nostalgic snippet and when Mr. Bello mentions, to the kingpin’s derision, Rambo’s real name, “Kasali”.
More than Wilmer Academy’s ensemble of personalities, from the nerdy Frank (Emeka Nwagbaraocha) to the free-spirited Zina (Genoveva Umeh), life-of-the-party Reggie (Natse Jemide), treacherous Nnenna (Ruby P. Okezie) and inflexible Denrele (Raymond Umenze), you sometimes fear that the show spends time overpainting high school life in Nigeria with the Western cliché of teenage frivolities. Molly, alcohol and partying are so easily at the fingertips of the students. How many Nigerian cool-kids’ parents or guardians give as much freedom to their wards? Within the age range, in a laidback society like ours, the debauchery may appear to be pushed too far from home. However, with hindsight, you would reconcile with the filmmakers’ perspective.
What else do we expect in the next season? Perhaps a relationship between Denrele and Nnenna, or a more technically developed version of Denrele’s character. Remember in episode 5 when Denrele struggles but fails to get Nnenna’s attention? The series will be expected to branch into this subplot, while driving the story from other ends. How would Aduke run the underworld? Is total allegiance from Baido guaranteed? With the cliffhanger leading us into another realm of power and leadership, we cannot wait to see how effectively this is managed and for how long Rambo can be tamed. And we look forward to a terrific new beginning for Ishaya, who has scooped some global recognition for his artwork and obtained the deserved appraisal of his mentor, Essien, who, only some Founder’s Day ago, had almost drowned the boy’s passion with insensitive words of reprimand.
Adedamola Jones Adedayo is a teacher, writer, and literary arts & popular culture critic. He is particularly interested in African writings, films and music. He’s appeared on Afrocritik and Bella Naija. Reach him at email@example.com.On Facebook, he is Adedamola Jones Adedayo, on Instagram @adedamolajonesadedayo, and on Twitter @AdedamolaAdeda4.