BY ANDREW OKE
The biggest and most anticipated Nollywood film from last year was The Wedding Party and now the most anticipated film of the year so far is another “wedding movie;” Isoken. Could the Wedding Movie be to Nollywood what the Superhero Flick is to Hollywood? Maybe. I don’t know. Speaking of Isoken, if you are looking for a by the numbers, zero frills date movie with a lot more rom than com, this is a film that should be right up your alley. There is not much to it, but it is, at the very least, entertaining enough to hold your attention throughout its run-time. For lack of a more appropriate word, what I will say is, Isoken is… OK.
Dakore Akande plays the titular role, a successful but insecure woman living in Lagos. She is thirty-four years old, the oldest of three sisters and the only one yet to be married. Her biological clock is ticking and matters aren’t helped by excessive pressure put upon her by her mother (Tina Mba), who is as Nigerian as a mother can possibly be. On the night of her younger sister’s wedding, her mother hooks her up with the son of a socialite, Osaze (Joseph Benjamin) and sparks fly almost instantly. However, like I said earlier, this is a by the numbers rom-com and what’s a by the numbers rom-com without the obligatory love triangle. Insert: Kevin (Marc Rhys); a light-hearted, easy going English guy that Isoken meets during an incident that involves her unmentionables. At first, she can’t stand him, but once they start getting to know each other, a friendship and eventual mutual attraction develops. This puts Isoken in a bit of a pickle since Kevin is not only English but also white.
A lot of the time, Isoken just goes through the motions and ticks off all the mandatory beats and moments needed to make a film such as this work in an almost robotic and detached fashion, almost like a stock story was picked up and whoever was involved in making the film just had to fill in a few blanks. Matters are not helped by Dakore Akande’s uninspiring performance as Isoken; a role she tackles with the emotional capacity of Microsoft Narrator. Watching her act opposite career mannequin, Joseph Benjamin is draining, to say the least, making the limited time they share together on screen seem like an eternity. Their poor acting and complete lack of chemistry is on full display in this film on many occasions, most notably during Isoken and Osaze’s first date where he talks about himself like he is reading the information from his CV and she engages in conversation in the dullest manner, almost like she is reading her lines off a cue card in the corner. In a very sharp contrast, Marc Rhys brings an energy, honesty and humanity to his role that is so palpable, he forces Dakore Akande to step her game up, making her scenes with him the best in the entire film.
Like the rest of Isoken, most of the supporting performances in the film are pretty regular and not all that special. That is not to say that they are bad because they are not. They are just… there. The only exception here is Tina Mba. Tina Mba is suberb in her role as Isoken’s mother, solidifying herself as one of Nigeria’s finest character actors.
Isoken covers a topic that is very prevalent in Nigerian pop culture today, so it is sure to get a lot of attention and patronage regardless, but it is simply a pretty looking, average film. It is OK at best, and for most people that will probably be good enough.
DAKORE AKANDE – Isoken
JOSEPH BENJAMIN – Osaze
MARC RHYS – Kevin
FUNKE AKINDELE – Agnes
DAMILOLA ADEGBITE – Joke
LYDIA FORSON – Kukua
TINA MBA – Mama Isoken
PATRICK DOYLE – Papa Isoken