Movie review: Ini Edo, Joseph Benjamin slum it in ‘While you slept’

by Wilfred Okiches

There is a brief moment when While you slept, the latest collaboration between star Ini Edo, director, Desmond Elliot and producer, Emem Isong flickers to life.

It occurs when a vixen-ish sociopath, Najite (Venita Akpofure) and her uber-nemesis, Amaka (Ini Edo) abandon any claim to decorum and engage in a public physical duel. Akpofure’s character comes out of the brawl, bleeding from her neck even though Edo’s character did not make use of any object or blunt instrument for assistance. Did she cut herself?

Could this be a delicious case of a brilliant villainess in the mould of Gone girl’s Amazing Amy? One is allowed to wish, yes?

No such luck.

The film quickly goes back to becoming the putrid mess that it started out as. A grieving widow Amaka Okoro (Edo) is doing her best to mourn in peace but even this most solemn of rights is denied her when a sexy, mysterious young lady shows up at her doorstep. Said young lady claims to have been married to Amaka’s late husband and has impeccable documentation to prove.

What is more? She also presents a male heir, complete with positive paternity tests; something Amaka had not been able to manage in as many years of marriage. Everything seems too good to be true.

Instinctively suspicious, Amaka decides to dig deeper and on her search, meets up with a young man (Joseph Benjamin in a pointless role) who may or may not have romantic feelings for her and gradually they begin to navigate a tangled web of lies, treachery and deceit.

While you slept isn’t a good movie. There are good looking actors, a shaky plot and a nice enough picture but that is about all the positives there are to report.

Most of the film consists of Ini Edo doing what she does so well; screaming. There is Ini Edo screaming at herself, Ini Edo screaming at Venita Akpofure, Ini Edo screaming at Joseph Benjamin, Ini Edo screaming at pretty much every other character that comes her way. Mid way into the film, she renders it almost unwatchable.

The plot is flimsy and runs around in circles with hardly any direction. Actors are just left to their own devices and save for Akpofure, who is the only person committed to her role, everyone else is slumming it big time. Joseph Benjamin appears bored by proceedings and cannot quite understand what exactly he is hired to do.

Ms Edo who is incapable of giving off anything apart from a pathognomonic blank stare, no matter the extremes of emotion required from her does not distinguish her Amaka Okoro from any other character she has played in the past. But the fault isn’t all hers. The screenplay, credited to Kehinde Joseph and Chiji Vivians doesn’t even seem to understand what it is about.

Mr Elliot’s direction as usual, just goes through the motions of assembling scenes by rote. No subtle touches, no characteristic flourish, just a heavy handed film school basics drudgery. Supporting characters are a blur of clichéd stock caricatures, having essentially nothing to do.

By the time the film ends, there is certainly no one to root for. Someone wins, someone loses, but what do you care? The film experience is so tedious, anyone who sleeps through won’t be missing much.

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