BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
Shirley Frimpong-Manso has had a fan in me since Rebecca, Grey Dawn and Contract, and then every other movie after that, except of course Devil in the Detail which wasn’t exactly poor but wasn’t exactly great. With her most recent film, Potato Potahto, screening at film festivals around the world from Cannes Film Festival to Durban International Film Festival and then the recently concluded African International Film Festival, it is alright to say without stuttering that she is a force where African filmmaking is concerned.
A recurring characteristic of her films is a strong female lead, a mix of Nigerian-Ghanaian actors, and a limited cast and locations. In Rebecca, we had two members of cast and one location, in 6 hours to Christmas and Contract, we had almost same. In Potato Potahto, it is nearly all shot in one house, and just about involves two people, until the few other characters begin to show up, and for good reason. There are no useless characters in this film, well except Adjetey Anang’s character who could easily have been done without.
Potato Potahto is the story of a couple who get a divorce as they cannot seem to stand each other. Now divorced, they still live in the same house, splitting their domains equally, down to the kitchen, and sides of the compound, with strict rules barring anyone from trespassing in the other’s space. As expected, they both are very petty, especially Lulu, the wife who could go into a fit if the laid down rules aren’t followed.
Tony brings in a female help, Lulu’s jealousy is ignited, and she too brings hers; a gorgeous male help named Gabby who intimidates her ex-husband. And on and on, Tony and Lulu fall in and out of love for each other, get vengeful towards each other, and attempt to outdo each other till they both decide cohabiting isn’t a very bright idea.
Potato Pothato goes back and forth for what would seem like an eternity with its love story, but it is a back and forth that is welcome with humour and relatable squabbles that will have you choosing sides now and again while still rooting for them to get back together.
The picture and sound are excellent, and the soundtracks carry the film’s mood on their wings. The cast are a handful of excellent performers. Joselyn Dumas as Lulu is breathtaking both in style and performance, looking powdered up even right out of bed. Acting alongside OC Ukeje who plays Tony gets the viewer sold on their strong chemistry within their love-hate story, as was in their previous 2014 film Love or Something like That. Joke Silva plays Mrs. Wilson with the grace she is known for, and Blossom Chukwujekwu’s Fred is breezy, creating the kind of ‘bromance’ we love to see between friends on screen with Tony, a far cry from what was obtained by his character in Okafor’s Law. Kemi Lala Akindoju plays Lulu’s friend and voice of reason. Chris Attoh takes on a role that is different from anything we have seen him portray as Gabi the help, and nails it.
The 2017 romantic comedy film written and directed by Shirley Frimpong-Manso is entertaining from start to end, while bearing the risk of wearying its viewer with its length and repetition. It employs unforced humor and theatrics to get its job done. The flickering lights at the end remind you of the statement ‘Every mistake in art is a design’, and nearly works except one can’t but wonder what the explanation behind the art is or what the ‘design’ aims to do. The robbery scene is not quite believable too, and with the way the couple was tied up, it is difficult to believe they weren’t just playing.
Its shortcomings notwithstanding, Potato Potahto is one that meets its high anticipation and hype. And the uniqueness of its title works. Totally.