Not too long ago, I had a conversation with someone about Nollywood romantic comedies and Netflix’ Always Be My Maybe and To All The Boys I Have Loved. The crux of that discussion was, unlike the Netflix films, most Nollywood romcoms don’t tell a coherent love story and they bring nothing new to the genre. Both Netflix films aren’t original, but they approach their familiar stories uniquely. More importantly, their love story is genuine.
That authenticity is the reason Oluseyi Asurf’s Kasanova rules. It is a Nollywood romantic comedy not focused solely on making the audience laugh, but one that’s gunning for a charming love story. To further distinguish itself, it assembles a competent supporting cast comprising actual actors—both known and unknown—leaving no space for social media stars. The film comes with the mushiness expected of a rom-com, it also brings the laughs, major thanks to an excellent Toyin Abraham performance.
Kasanova tells the story of, well, a casanova. Femi (Wale Ojo) is a widower with an affinity for anything in skirts. When we first meet him, he is jogging with his son, Jason (Abayomi Alvin), a wannabe musician. While starring at the derriere of a fellow runner, he trips and hurts himself. A couple of scenes later, we meet him at a bar, discussing with his friends his perceived view that women are useless. Unknown to them, a lady having a bad night was eavesdropping. When she’s had enough of their demeaning talk, she gives them a piece of her mind. Femi retorts with the usual “you are a lonely woman.” She fires back “with men like you, being single is perfect.”
That lady is Jessica, played by the charming Ireti Doyle. She is a music teacher and single mother. She was at the bar that night because she’d gotten into another fight with her daughter, Ini (Ruby Akubueze). Ini attends the same school as Jason. The two don’t particularly get on. However, Jason plans to get her to love him…. then break her heart. The subplot between both children, as wonderful as it is, isn’t the crux of the story. The love, their parents will share, is. Jason gets shortlisted to train with Jessica for a music concert, his father drives him to her house, not knowing she is the same lady from the bar.
An expected confrontation ensues when they meet and Femi tells his son they would be leaving. Jason refuses because “knowing my dad, he is at fault.” After a few sessions with Jason, Jessica learns that Femi’s wife died of cancer and that he has been miserable since. She proceeds to apologize for her harsh words at the bar and he accepts by proposing dinner. This is a romantic comedy, so you know what follows.
The script by Oluseyi Asurf, Ugochukwu Isreal and Tomi Adesina is superb and does a good job merging the romantic side and comedic side into a wholesome experience. It also has an interesting young-adult subplot featuring Jason, Ini and their friends that aids and mirrors the main plot. However, there is the familiar cliché of women saving wrecked men. Femi became a player after losing his wife to cancer, his son takes after his philandering ways but father and son will be redeemed by the love of women.
That worrying cliché aside, there is nothing to dislike about Kasanova. The performances are affectionate (the mushiness is dialed up here), and the picture created by cinematographer Kagho Idhebor is gorgeous. (Also there is that sumptuous orange glow in films with stunning pictures like The Set Up and Light in the Dark.) Ojo and Doyle are cute onscreen lovers, there is a delightful scene in which they discussed falling in love and we get a side of Doyle we have not seen in a long time.
While romance comes mostly from the lead, the rib-cracking jokes are left to the supporting cast. Toyin Abraham who plays Bisola (the nanny/cook) in Jessica’s household is in a league of her own. Bisola is fiercely protective of Ini and when Ini’s quarrels with her mum over career choice hit a peak, she challenges Jessica and asks that Ini be allowed to do what she wants. It is a scene in which a serious matter is being discussed but Abraham’s performance will have you rolling.
Odunlade Adekola appears first in the film’s most rapturous scene and combines excellently with Abraham to heighten the laughter. They are so good together you wonder how different Celebrity Marriage would have been if its script wasn’t so poor. And that’s the beauty of Kasanova, it is a well-written Nollywood rom-com—the best since Isoken—and sometimes that’s all actors and directors need to do an excellent job.