by Osamudiamen Joseph
In the opening scene of the movie, the main character, Mofe (played by a perfectly cast Lateef Adedimeji) is on a call with his wife-to-be. It is their wedding day and he is ready to go, decked out in a fine white shirt and a sharp haircut to boot. The venue is ready, the invited guests are seated, the priest is on time (if I see one more Hollywood romcom with a tardy wedding day priest, I’ll scream), but there’s just one little problem: the bride is nowhere to be found.
At this point, members of the audience who have bagged a Bachelor’s Degree in Romantic Comedy Plotlines by watching conscientiously everything, from When Harry Met Sally (1989) to Kemi Adetiba’s The Wedding Party, are bound to wave this off as just another cliché of the genre. In their minds, the missing bride is most likely already on her way to the church, applying layer upon layer of make-up in the car, The Hangover-style. Either that or she woke up that morning next to an old flame and they’re still racking their brains to find out if “anything happened last night.” Another plausible scenario is that she’s pissed at the groom and is off at her favorite place sulking and nursing a mini existential crisis. Anything but what the answer turns out to be. Anywhere but Jos.
Watching this first scene a second time, I got to really appreciate Lateef Adedimeji’s acting chops. There is an unmistakable glint in his eyes that immediately endears us to him. The poor guy got jilted at the altar but he’s calling his lady expecting to hear that she’ll there soon. At the same time, there is also a look of apprehension on his face before she breaks the news to him, a sense that he’d been expecting something to go royally wrong all morning. Tears flow freely as he repeats the question, “You’re in Plateau-Jos?” over and over, unable to believe his ears.
Moments of expertly constructed dark comedy like the above are peppered throughout Mofe ni Mofe, introducing an element that is rarely seen in romantic comedy-dramas. By magnifying everyday experiences to their astronomical extremes, screenwriter, Mike Adejonwo, is able to strike comedy gold.
Regardless of the devastation brought on by his wedding day experience, Mofe goes through life undeterred. A romantic (and somehow also, a realist), he believes that love can be found in the most unexpected places. This is likely why he signs up to be on a game show where a bachelor has to pick one lady out of three to go on a date with. Mofe chooses the woman who was rude to him at the bus stop earlier that day (whose boyfriend also happens to be the producer of the show). Why? Well, if you’re looking for logic, look not to the hopeless romantic.
The lady, Mojisola or MJ, played by Jumoke Odetola, is initially abrasive and wants nothing to do with him. Fast forward to the next scene and she’s on a date with him, getting chummy while getting lunch. It seems implausible that she’d change so drastically but for some reason, this works. We discover that her current boyfriend, Meduoye (Tope Tedela), is more interested in becoming Nigeria’s answer to America’s Kim Kardashian than in actually being her lover. He has time only for his reality show. Eventually, MJ breaks it off with him and all he can manage is a four-minute-long moment of silence. All the best bro. Focus on getting that bag. It’s okay if you’re not yet ready to be with anybody.
We all remember how we felt during that scene in the midpoint of Parasite (2019) where the housekeeper comes back, throwing the second half of the movie into chaos. Mofe ni Mofe pulls off no such genre-bending twist but manages to create a sense of suspense after its first act break. Usually, we would expect that Mofe would spend the entire movie chasing Moji who would repeatedly refuse his advances until the climax where she would run to him in her wedding dress no less preferably at an airport and profess her undying love in the presence of many witnesses. Extra points if someone around happens to be an ordained minister. Again, those with a Bachelor’s Degree in Romantic Comedy Plotlines are all too familiar with this.
However, since in Mofe ni Mofe, the guy and the girl get together 13 minutes in, all clichés are thrown out the window. The story can go anywhere now. The audience isn’t sure exactly where but I imagine it makes for a good experience. According to Jean Furniss Goodine, suspense is generally given little credit for the pleasure derived from comedy; it is more commonly associated with detective or adventure stories. I agree. A lot of comedic moments can be mined from suspense. The audience is caught off guard with each turn the movie takes, and laughter, an effective way of letting go of all the tension that’s been building up, is the natural response.
The rest of the movie features different skillfully-crafted comedic moments. A personal favourite is a scene where Mofe along with his friends, Biggie, (Omofolaji Komolafe) and Oloye (Abdulazeez Adedimeji) go to MJ’s house to ask for her hand in marriage. The entire sequence will have you in stitches. Jide Kosoko and Jaiye Kuti show up as Uncle Joe and Aunty Jane respectively. Uncle Joe is Mofe’s dad’s brother and he offers to help him with his wedding plans precisely with 5 million naira.
Mofe and MJ are elated but on Mofe’s face, you can still detect a hint of the apprehension that showed in the first scene. Something is going to go wrong, he can tell. And it does go wrong. Uncle Joe falls sick and passes away. The movie squeezes a lot of black comedy out of this too. I won’t spoil the ending but let’s just say even though the filmmakers are out to subvert romcom tropes, they are not above indulging in them, in a heartwarming non-cynical way.
The movie loses steam in the second act, specifically in a scene where Moji and Mofe discuss their past brushes with love and the shame it brought them. Arguments between the two leads are supposed to be fodder for dramatic tension but it doesn’t really land. I can categorically say Mofe ni Mofe is a better comedy than it is a drama. The cinematography, especially in the interior scenes, is a blessing. The lighting is warm and inviting and captures the romantic vibe in the air quite well.
This movie reminded me a lot of Irapada (2006) especially at the resolution. Also of the hit Amazon Prime series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, in the way it executes its romantic plot with a dark comedic twist. Anything that reminds me of Kunle Afolayan’s brilliant debut and one of the best TV shows airing right now is a win in my book.