Film Review: My Wife and I asks for too much, offers little rewards

by Wilfred Okiche

It is probably a good thing that Nollywood is reaching for more interesting ways to tell pretty conventional stories of love, family and loss. It would be better though if these films took more time to familiarise themselves with the rules before seeking to bend them a bit. That way the filmmakers are protected, audiences are rewarded and everyone goes home happy. Maybe money can be made too.

My Wife and I, the new fantastical romantic comedy from the team that served The Wedding Party and The Arbitration requires a suspension of belief to be appreciated at length but suspension of belief does not and should not be the cover for inconsistencies in characterisation and plot.

When we first meet Ebere (Omoni Oboli) and Toyosi (Ramsey Nouah), they are having one of their legendary quarrels, going at it and creating awkward stares for their guests who are gathered below for a party. She wants to take the children to Paris because she can afford it, he thinks the twins are spoilt rotten enough. He is probably right going by the attitude of the teenage daughter who storms in to give her parents a piece of her mind.  The D word is mentioned. Their horrified parents stage an intervention. Mama knows a pastor who can help. They agree to consider this option. The trip to Paris is forgotten, never to be mentioned again.

Weird Pastor is played by Seyi Law who uses unconventional means to get his clients to behave. After praying for Toyiosi and Ebere, they wake up and everything changes. She is him and he is her. In a strange twist – from God?- Toyosi wakes up in Ebere’s body as she does in his. The idea is for them to understand the other person by walking in each other’s shoes. Literally.

The switch is a potential disaster if not handled properly but first time director Bunmi Ajakaiye, working from a shaky but elegant script by Chanaza Onuzo does not let it happen. There are inconsistencies still and these undermine the film. Toyosi and Ebere’s characters aren’t delineated clearly. While studying their new bodies, Toyosi in Ebere’s body takes on some of her physical mannerisms. Midway into the film, Nouah has forgotten all of them, same for Oboli. The screenplay mixes up the characterisation at some point as both characters separately appear to confide in Dorcas Shola Fapson’s character

Ramsey Nouah and Omoni Oboli have not made a film together since The Figurine eight years ago. While Nouah has remained at the top of the game, Oboli has matched, and maybe even surpassed him in terms of star power and more than earns the equal billing she shares here. They clearly have crackling chemistry and find delight in working together. This natural ease helps sell the most improbable aspects of My Wife and I.

The picture is pretty and sound is effective so My Wife and I rises and falls on the strength of its story. There is an infidelity subplot that appears tacked on to make things more interesting when they begin to slack but this feels artificial and is too neatly resolved. By the final arc, the film begins to repeat scenes of love and affection.

No one, not for a moment is in doubt as to where the story is heading from the get go. The burden is on the filmmakers to make their journey as consistent as possible. This one just feels like a series of cheats to arrive at a predetermined ending.

The tasteful production design, glossy, star heavy finish and doses of good humour will surely help but the film’s aspirational marketing push should do the final job of turning My Wife and I into a surefire box office hit.

The writer tweets from @drwill20

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