LFF 2020: Eyimofe (This is My Desire) Review
It often feels like a cliché when a review states that a city is as much of a character as the people living in it, but it feels impossible to avoid when speaking about Eyimofe. Directed and written by twin brothers Arie and Chuko Esiri, their debut carries the indomitable spirit of Nigeria’s largest city Lagos in almost every frame, following the fortunes of two people dreaming of leaving it behind to start afresh in Europe.
Split into two chapters (the first titled ‘Spain’) with an adjoining epilogue, we are first ingratiated into Mofe’s (Jude Akuwudike) life, seeing him work as an electrical engineer and security guard amongst other things before returning to a home shared with his sister and her children. He wants to leave the country for Spain and paying for a visa is the only thing now standing in his way. But a tragedy stops his plans and sees him swamped by family politics and costly, soul-draining bureaucracy.
We leave Mofe’s story around the 45 minute mark, with hairdresser/bartender Rosa (Temi Ami-Williams) coming into focus. The two stories are tangentially connected, the lives of the two characters briefly referencing each other in various ways. Rosa wants to leave the country with her pregnant young sister Grace (Cynthia Ebijie) to start a life in Italy (also the title of the chapter). But she’s struggling to cover the rent, pay for the visa and cover Grace’s medical bills. Rosa starts a relationship with a Lebanese-American expat called Peter (Jacob Alexander) although when she starts to ask for financial helps he becomes convinced money is the only thing she’s interested in.
The Esiri’s film is part of what is being labelled a New Wave movement in Nigeria, backed with more money, larger crews and higher production levels than those shot in ‘Nollywood’. The grounded social-realistic-style narrative highlights the pressures of life in a city of around 20 million people and the compromises that come with it, with most things reverting back to money at some point. While the script feels underwritten in both halves and Akuwudike too blank a canvas to express the psychological breakdown he's experiencing, the Esiri’s bring to camera a Lagos that will be an eye-opener to many.
It’s the details of these character’s lives that prove to be the most engaging part of the story, with first-time performer Ami-Williams proving to be a real find. Running at just under 110 minutes (including the epilogue) there’s definitely an argument to be made that it could be shorter but these are two directors you want to see given the time and money to evolve their ideas. There are millions of stories waiting to be told in Lagos alone and the it’s high time they are afforded the opportunity to be heard on a grander stage.
Eyimofe (This is My Desire) plays at the London Film Festival.
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