The basis of any film is its story. If the story doesn’t work, the film can’t work.
●9th March 2023
Co-written and directed by Tope Oshin, Here Love Lies follows the story of Amanda (Tope Oshin) who has ill-luck finding a good man for herself, but eventually finds “the man of her dreams”.
The film opens with teenage Amanda getting disowned by her parents, because she has gotten pregnant. Her father even goes ahead to curse her, saying that the child she gives birth to would cause her pain just as she caused him. The writers of Here Love Lies clearly either do not understand Chekhov’s gun, or they just decide the film is better off without it. Chekhov’s gun is a device used in writing, which states that every element in a story should be significant. I fail to see the need for the curse placed by Amanda’s father in the film. The curse is repeated in a dream Amanda has towards the end of the film, as though it is what the story is premised on. However, Amanda’s misfortune, at the end of the day, has absolutely nothing to do with her daughter and everything to do with her desperation and naivety. So, why emphasize something that has no significance in the story?
In the scenes following Amanda’s ostracism, we are introduced to her love life. Jide (Daniel Etim Effiong), her boyfriend, is about to “propose”, so she excuses herself to call her best friend, Kemi (Omowunmi Dada). She tells Kemi that she is scared to tell Jide about her daughter, because he will leave her like the other men she has dated in the past. Here, her daughter is established as the obstacle to her finding a partner. She eventually finds out Jide is married and she goes home crying.
That same night, Amanda starts texting Michael, one of her online admirers, despite agreeing with Kemi that men are not to be trusted. Amanda is a character that easily moves on, and it is hard to tell if this is a problem with the writing, or the character herself. However, the film follows the show-don’t-tell rule. Sadly, this seems like the only thing the film seems to do right. The audience gets to know that Amanda is a travel agent only when her profile name is displayed on screen as she texts Michael, who is an American.
Amanda later ends up travelling to New York for her company, but decides to check in on Michael (Tim Sherburne), her new American lover. Tim Sherbune’s performance in the film is underwhelming. The same can be said about Tope Oshin who, right from her first scene in the film, was a struggle to watch. As a matter of fact, Angel Unigwe, who plays Amanda’s fourteen-year-old daughter Nora, gives a more convincing performance in the film than Sherburne and Oshin combined. An even worse performance is delivered by Barbara Walsh, who plays Liz, an undercover cop.
Despite the film’s shortcomings, it does well with its foreshadowing. After Michael and Amanda eventually get together, I begin wondering why I still have 30 minutes left to finish the film. Then, I understand why: Michael asks Amanda to come to his home, a place where he only takes the people closest to him. The first thing that gives a bad omen is the long and lonely road that leads to his house, followed by the number of dead animals whose heads are hung on his wall. Eventually, we learn that Michael has kidnapped her and plans to kill her.
Here Love Lies might allude to a subtle pun: Here, love is situated; and Here, love does not tell the truth. Michael, we are told, is a serial kidnapper and killer, whose victims are Nigerian women. This might be the reason why the film establishes a cultural gap of some sorts earlier on. For instance, when Amanda tells Michael that she has a daughter, he sees no problem with it. Unlike Nigerian men that Amanda has dated in the past, Michael is eager to meet Nora, and even comments on the mindset of Nigerian men, asking, “What kind of guys have you been hanging out with?”. With the combination of an interracial relationship dynamic and kidnapping in the film, I can’t help but think I am watching Jade Osiberu’s Isoken, with a sprinkle of Jordan Peele’s Get Out.
Here Love Lies clearly has a writing problem. Amanda’s daughter complains that she doesn’t want to go to boarding school, and even picks up a fight with her mother because of this. However, I can’t seem to understand what this adds or takes away from the story. This is yet another instance where Chekhov’s gun would have benefited the story. Also, the film ends with Amanda going to meet her parents, telling them she has forgiven them. What drives her to do this? Is it because her mother and sister had apologised earlier, or because she has just escaped death by a hair’s breadth? The film makes her motivation for doing this very vague.
In conclusion, the 131 minute–romance thriller is one that does not have a re-watch value, save for some Non-Nigerians who would want to learn a few Nigerian songs and slangs. However, it would be unfair to say it does not teach a lesson: Never trust a stranger.