There are few things subtle about God Calling, a faith-based drama in which a non-believing housewife is literally arrested by God and put to use preaching the Gospel. And how does the almighty choose to show himself to our heroine? He literally calls her on the phone. How does she deal with this intrusion? Does she answer? What kind of conversation do they have? Did it really happen? Or is someone just losing their mind?
From Abraham to Apostle Paul, the Bible is rife with several accounts of God arresting people in the most dramatic of ways. While a phone call from God is far from the most far-fetched idea, in this day and age it certainly requires some level of justification. Even if God works in the most mysterious of ways.
God Calling weaves an interesting enough element by positioning its heroine, Sade (a committed Zainab Balogun) as a relapsing drug user. Was she high at the times she claimed to have received this call? That would certainly make some sense. But writer cum director BB Sasore introduces this development only to discard it without engaging fully or thoughtfully with it. It is lapses like this that make God Calling less credible than it aspires to be.
Sade, an extremely privileged young woman is married to Francis (a solid Karibi Fubara) and even though they have had some infertility challenges, their union is blessed with an adorable daughter. Sade is as committed a mother as she can be, having abandoned her career to become a stay home mom. Francis works for Sade’s wealthy parents and earns enough to keep the family comfortable. Apart from motherhood and her addiction, Sade fills the void in her life by providing a listening ear to her friend’s marital woes.
A brief moment of inattention changes everything for Sade and Francis. Lost in the depths of her despair, she gets the call from God and the rest of God Calling is a harvest of miracles for Sade and her loved ones.
The big screen follow up to Sasore’s 2017 Banana Island Ghost– now streaming on Netflix- operates in a different frequency even if Sasore retains some of his flair for striking production design and doubles down on the visual effects department.
Like Banana Island Ghost, God Calling assembles an appealing cast of Nollywood heavyweights- Richard Mofe-Damijo, Onyeka Onwenu, Nkem Owoh– amongst others to build the world around Sade and Francis. Complementing their efforts is the work of the VFX team led by Ikechukwu Jerry Ossai. It is these effects, even though showy in many respects that give God Calling a distinct feel and separates it from the run-of-the-mill faith-based films.
Which is not to say that God Calling does not have its fair share of melodrama. Sasore’s seed of an idea would probably have benefited from expert deconstruction and several more retouches to give the plot a firmer, more precise direction. It does appear that he is running the whole show and as a result, the film sags where it should swim.
While Sasore elicits top notch performances from the committed cast, his writing and directing sometimes undermines their hard work with tonal shifts and head-scratching plot developments. When focused on the central plot of Sade and Francis, God Calling is a somber exploration of grief and examination of how far trust in a higher being can go. In these moments, the film is reflective, maudlin even. But when the older foursome of RMD, Onwenu, Owoh and Tina Mba come on screen, the pacing increases and the film reverts to regular Nollywood theatrics.
God Calling will no doubt, appeal to audiences who like their entertainment spiced with messaging about the abiding love of God. It has the hallmarks of a genuine crowd pleaser. Come for the drama, stay for the miracles and claim them for yourself.
Pretty good deal if you ask us.
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.