In Kayode Kasum’s perfectly acceptable This Lady Called Life, Bisola Aiyeola is Aiye; a young single mother struggling to get by in the big city.
Like many residents of Lagos, Aiye works hard running a modest business that barely supports a decent standard of living. Talented and plucky, Aiye dreams of becoming a chef and operating on a much more edified level than her current circumstances. She believes in the validity of her dreams and on any given day, is prepared to work hard to achieve them.
But when her chronic inferiority complex rears its head, all bets are off and it is all Aiye can do to make it from day to day. Kicked out of home on account of a teenage pregnancy, Aiye shares a complicated relationship with her immediate family. Cut off from the support of a regular family unit, Aiye is paddling for her life beneath her calm exterior.
When she meets Obinna (a smooth Efe Iwara) and begins to navigate the nature of her feelings for him, she realizes that the process of loving another person has to start with loving herself. And loving herself means confronting the years of abuse she has suffered at the hands of her mother (Tina Mba having too much fun.)
This Lady Called Life reunites Aiyeola with her Sugar Rush director, Kayode Kasum. Even when he is enjoying a fertile period in his career in terms of the number of projects he is attached to, it is still hard to pin down a style that can be attributed to Kasum.
However, if there is a thread running through his work, it is a love for vibrant colors. This Lady Called Life pops with bright colors, playing out in the production’s mise-en-scène that finds a way of creeping into the endearing relationship between Aiye and Obinna.
Both actors are not expected to do much by way of heavy lifting but their chemistry is genuine and they feed off each other generously, managing to shine through some of the dodgy shots set up by Adeoluwa Owu and Loveth Mabuchi.
The screenplay credited to Toluwani Obayan, is simple minded and apart from the romantic comedy tropes takes on the additional layer of tackling the traumatic scars of psychologic and emotional abuse especially as it relates to Aiye and her parents. But it cannot fully commit to this as Kasum’s film settles for tidy, conservative escapes when these conflicts come to a boil. Such as Aiye’s mum finally accepting her humanity only after she reveals a troubling secret.
The rewards come softly though as Aiye grows out of her shell and learns to assert herself and take up the space that she exists in without needing approval from anyone.
There is perhaps an overdependence on romantic love as the catalyst to this self-confidence but thus is the spirit of romantic comedies and viewers in search of a film that plumbs the underbelly of romantic attachment may have to look elsewhere.
This one tells the story of one woman’s search for self-actualization and financial freedom and it does it quite modestly.
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.