The chief attraction of Light Will Come, the latest film written and directed by the prolific Tchidi Chikere, is the increasingly rare opportunity for Nollywood faithful to see Mercy Johnson Okojie on the big screen.
Since she burst on the scene in 2004 with a star making performance in The Maid, Mercy Johnson Okojie has noisily become an audience favourite. She risked it all for a life of domestic security in 2011 and only dips her feet once in a long while to make another film. Light Will Come is her first big screen starring effort since Thy Kingdom Come released in 2015.
Light Will Come is the story of a 35 year old Lagos big boy, Raymond (Majid Michael), a chronic bachelor who is bullied by his parents into bringing home to Enugu, a fiancee for his father’s birthday weekend. Raymond’s father casually throws threats of disinheritance his way and at his wits end, following a royal disappointment by his apparent girlfriend, Raymond resorts to an escort service to find him a suitable choice.
But Raymond has no intentions of presenting a take home to mama kind of girl. On the contrary, he plans to present someone insufficient enough to turn his parents off, that they may dismiss her instantly and leave him to his bachelor ways.
Viola (Johnson-Okojie) is just such a girl. She may clean up good and possess a smile that can melt hearts but lean a little bit closer and the caged tiger in her comes out to bite. She is the Nollywood version of the hooker with a tough exterior and heart of gold. The first sigh that this is a seen it all before type of flick.
With its premise of hiring a suitor to impress family, Light Will Come bears some similarity to Hire a Man, another romantic comedy (Shaffy Bello plays the mother in both) presently showing in cinemas. But the similarities end there. Light Will Come makes Hire a Man look like Titanic with its numerous failings and failure to impress.
The story is catchy enough but it is then juxtaposed awkwardly with that of Michael’s domestic assistant, Lukas, played by the lovable Hafiz Oyetoro and his bully of a wife played by Eniola Badmus. Both actors are here only for the comic relief but they clash so awkwardly and begin to grate by their first appearance together. Oyetoro provides some laughs, but it is mostly individual effort. Badmus is as bad as she’s ever been.
Chikere’s direction is awkward and clumsy. He may have penned the screenplay, but he does not know how to present a coherent story on screen. He fails to provide much direction for his actors and everyone is just winging it the best or worst way they know how to. Mostly worst.
Majid Michael is an actor who can be controlled by a hardworking, intuitive director. Many Nollywood directors Chikere inclusive, do not know what to do with him. He just phones in a subpar performance that riffs on characters he’s played in the past. Nothing to see here as you just watch Majid Michael playing the screen version of Majid Michael. The role isn’t particularly challenging but Michael attaches no thought or intelligence whatsoever to his delivery.
Mercy Johnson Okojie fares even worse. Criminal, as she is the one person who could have saved the picture. She and Michel for some reason have zero chemistry and even when she commits to the fart jokes and physical comedy demands, she manages to fall flat. Her Viola isn’t a real human being, merely a caricature and Johnson-Okojie fails to breathe in any life to it.
The supporting characters, from Nuella Njubigbo Chikere to Kannywood’s Rahama Sadau (capable on tv’s Sons of the Caliphate) are as uninspired as the rest. They seem to have come to the early conclusion that the screenplay isn’t salvageable and so merely act in line.
Speaking of, the tonal shifts are quite clumsy and continuity isn’t even an afterthought as the film progresses from one awkward development to another without bothering to at least credit its audience with some intelligence.
By the time the two leads suddenly converge out of the blues and start pledging love to each other just so the film can have a happy ending, you want to throw egg at the screen, or offer Mr Chikere both screenwriting and directing lessons. Free of charge.
No other way to say this but it has to be said. Light Will Come may have emerged from a good idea but its poor execution is certainly not made for the big screen.