BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
So you watch a movie and find a piece of yourself in a number of its characters. Or perhaps you don’t find yourself. Perhaps you find people you know: an aunt who always has something ridiculous to say about everything, an uncle who only knows ancient songs and outdated dance moves, or a roommate of yours who has a sugar daddy. When you watch a movie like that, it moves beyond your screen right into your heart and then it locks itself in, like a spirit that enters and possesses you. It no longer just entertains, it also makes you feel.
When I watched the 2012 Mildred Okwo-directed film, The Meeting four years ago, I had that ‘feel’ and it has not left me since. From the innocence of Ejura, a curious and carefree twenty-five year old looking for a mate that understands her, to the almost clueless middle-aged widower whose most important concern in life is to attend his daughter’s convocation, to that secretary who doubles as gatekeeper to the office of a Minister, one whose face lights up at the sight of a gift, to the ‘runs babe’ who delights herself in her short skirts and attention-grabbing backside. Every character in the meeting is properly thought out and represented.
Makinde Esho (Femi Jacobs) is a forty-five-year-old widower who travels early on a Monday morning from Lagos to Abuja to make a presentation to the Minister of Lands for his company, Techmast Nigerian Limited. He has a chance meeting with Ejura (Linda Ejiofor), a young corps member who needs a lift. While he is being delayed for days by the Minister’s secretary’s politicking, he finds Ejura good company till he falls in love with her.
There is no dull moment. From the moment The Meeting kicks off, it goes on and on inducing hilarity and being an absolute beauty. This story by Tunde Babalola is one of the sweetest we’ve seen from Nollywood in a while. And it works, because four years down the line we still love it. It makes us laugh, makes us smile, makes us “Aww”, and makes us “Why?”. It addresses a number of issues too, issues that affect us as a people: bribe, tribalism and service.
Apart from its brilliant story, The Meeting is down-to-earth. The character roles are unconventional. Rita Dominic is cast as Clara Ikemba, the Minister’s secretary, and makes a statement through her character that completely changes our perception of her as one-dimensional. The cast fittings are quite weird. Femi Jacobs as Kehinde Bankole’s father is a surprise, considering they are probably within the same age group. Nse Ikpe Etim as a Yoruba runs girl is unexpected. But this is the good kind of weird as it is proof of dynamism away from the stereotypes. And if you didn’t know who the actors were, you would think they were born for these roles.
Some lines make you gasp. When Makinde says to Ejura, “But I am old enough to be your father”, as an excuse to deny his feelings, Ejura replies with “And I am old enough to fall in love.” It’s interesting how the writer introduces a superstitious Jolomi who, in a bid to remedy his mistake, assists Makinde to the airport on his bike to help him catch his flight to Lagos in time for his daughter’s graduation ceremony. And there is a Mrs. Ikomi (Kate Henshaw) waiting to come to his rescue, and with good reason too. As fairytale-like/miraculous as his rescue comes, it is well accounted for and leaves out gaping holes that tend to plague screenplays. Oh, but there’s this one hole that hasn’t been covered (not that it affects anything): Why was the Lebanese brother who already saw the Minister not given the contract? And well, the open-air convocation didn’t remotely seem like one. We would also never understand why Ejura keeps saying “you are matured” when it should be ‘mature’. Someone on that set could have known better.
Its shortcomings notwithstanding, The Meeting is a romantic comedy that is impossible to forget. It is entertaining, and sustains your attention in spite of its many long and repetitive scenes. Oh, and its soundtracks will take your breath away.
I give it 80%.