Countless movies have explored inter-class romance and they go back as far as Grease, the 1978 teen musical directed by Randal Kleiser. Some don’t end happily, like James Cameron’s Titanic released in 1997, a romance drama about a 17-year-old aristocrat who falls in love with a kind but poor artist aboard the luxurious and ill-fated R.M.S Titanic. The rich girl-meets-poor guy trope is well-employed in romantic comedies, and the reversal rich guy-meets-poor girl is almost equally as common. Love In A Time Kekes, which was released last month from ROK Studios and available for streaming on IrokoTV, is Belinda Yanga-Adedah’s latest film project.
Her last directorial work was on 2016’s Romance Is Overrated, a tapestry of three independent but mutually inclusive short films which follows the story of couples struggling with their illusions of the idea called love. As it is, we are beginning to see a film landscape exploding with rom-coms, especially as The Wedding Party has become a critical tastemaker. What Belinda Yanga-Adedah tries to do with Love In A Time Of Kekes is to foreground location and atmosphere, which automatically sets up the circumstance for the lead characters to find an encounter.
Raziella (Ijeoma Grace Agu) is the independent, career-minded woman working in an auditing firm. She lives affluently, and can be arrogant, and many men would look the other way because, well, what else can they provide her? But when she’s attacked by a robber who breaks her car window and struggles to take her bag, she’s saved by Zikhora (Kelechi Udegbe), a Keke Napep driver but traditionally knight in shiny armour. You know what happens next, but, at first, Raziella feels responsible for Zhikora and maintains a friendship with him, knowing they exist in different worlds. But not too different though, as when Zikhora visits Raziella in her apartment and, in the living room, she accidentally farts in his presence.
Zikhora isn’t classy or refined. He neither has that urban-city gloss nor the means to break into affluent circles, so he is kind of surprised that prim-and-proper Raziella is capable of farting. Her friend and flatmate Korede (Sophie Alakija) observes their closeness from a distance. But there’s Duke (Efa Iwara) in the picture, Raziella’s work colleague whom she describes to Zhikora as “complicated.”
I actually don’t know what the deal is with Duke. He calls Raziella quite regularly but never takes any decisive step in advancing their relationship. Raziella doesn’t, either. Class disparity begins to blur as Zhikora gets closer to his then-damsel in distress. At his place, which is a small, shabby room in rural Lagos, Raziella creates her own comfort by improvising with a pillow, but it also doubles as a barrier on the bed to discourage Zhikora from touching her. At several times in the movie, I wondered what Raziella sees in him. He’s quite likeable, even if uncouth, and already in love and overly eager to show that love. In a scene where he’s kissing Raziella back at her apartment, Korede swings in and indicates that he’s a bad kisser. “Tease her and then take her,” she advises.
Between Raziella and Zhikora, dialogue can be bawdy, and their romance takes an unexpected speed into utter ridiculousness. Sometimes, it’s adorable to watch. Other times, it’s quite cringey. Love In A Time Of Kekes lacks the originality to set it apart, and happy ending are pretty much overrated.