Identical twins have been a mainstay of film culture for so long that stories involving look alikes and mistaken identity might as well have a sub-genre dedicated to them. With this in mind, one would assume that any producer mining for stories around this particular depot would make some effort to dig up a fresh, convincing angle.
The producer of Being Annabel, Oma Nnadi and her team quite certainly didn’t get the memo. In interviews promoting her little film, Nnadi who also plays the dual lead roles expressed her instant affinity for the screenplay credited to Writers Ink.
Judging by the end product, it is hard to see what would have attracted her- or anyone for that matter- to the project. Beyond pushing out another mediocre film to score filmmaker credits and scare up some coins that is.
The story is wild and doesn’t make much logical sense but the plot involves a down on her luck lady (Oma Nnadi) and her hustler sidekick, Joro (Alexx Ekubo) with whom she may or may not be nursing some romantic feelings for. They are stranded on Lagos’ Third Mainland Bridge- Ekubo’s Joro screams it about six times just in case you are hard of hearing and cannot recognize the structure onscreen- one fine day when a well-heeled but distressed young lady who bears more than a striking resemblance to Emma parks her car, steps out and takes a plunge into the vast waters below.
Out of the blue, Emma recognizes the young lady as her twin sister, Annabel, who was separated from her in childhood when their family fell on bad times. This level of ludicrosity is enough to sink even better made films and Being Annabel rightly does not recover from this. Emma’s shock may be genuine but not overwhelming enough to stop Joro from talking her into profiting from the dead lady. This decision takes them down a wild and potentially dangerous path, leading to twists that aren’t nearly as exciting as the writers seem to think.
Being Annabel is one of those films that should have been modest enough to recognize its limitations and stick to the video format where it really belongs. There is nothing positively cinematic in Okey Zubelu Okoh’s direction and he handles the screenplay as clumsily as it was presented to him. Material this subpar may demand that kind of sloppy treatment but it says something about the entire production that not one person was inspired enough to put in anything refreshing.
Oma Nnadi who plays both Emma and Annabel is obviously having fun playing two different ladies who although living separate lives, aren’t content with the fate they have been dealt. Her commitment is impressive and while she won’t win any major trophies- the film is too slight to matter- she proves that at least as an actress, she can work under the direction of someone who knows what they are doing. Alexx Ekubo is merely adequate, doing nothing new with the role of the everyman Joro. Meanwhile the business of lawmaking in Lagos state must be terribly depressing if Desmond Elliot keeps taking time off to make these kinds of ungainly distractions.
Being Annabel ultimately depends on the ability of the coincidence heavy plot to hold the attention of its audience. Even that is asking for too much as there are stretches where inclusion of certain redundant take up reel time that could be put to good use elsewhere.
However one chooses to dice it, and this is not to knock anyone’s hustle, there is really no reason for putting paying audience through this type of tedium in 2019.
Wilfred Okiche is a medic, reader, writer, journalist, culture critic, and occasional ruffler of feathers. One of the most influential critics working in the Nigerian culture space, his writing has appeared extensively in platforms like YNaija.com and 360nobs.com. Okiche has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and has had his work published in African Arguments, Africa is a Country and South Africa’s City Press. He has received trainings and acquired experience in multimedia and online journalism. He also appears on the culture television show, Africana Literati. He has participated at critic programs in Lagos, Durban and Rotterdam.