THE STORY - In Lagos, Nigeria, tragedy and fate intervene as two people try to better the lives of their families.
THE CAST - Jude Akuwudike, Tomiwa Edun & Temi Ami-Williams
THE TEAM - Chuko Esiri (Director/Writer) & Arie Esiri (Director)
THE RUNNING TIME - 114 Minutes
THE GOOD - Subtle yet captivating camerawork that encapsulates a city and its inhabitants.
THE BAD - None
THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None
THE FINAL SCORE - 9/10
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By James Palmer
Following the recent burgeoning of films in the Nigerian New Wave, "This Is My Desire" (original title "Eyimofe") is the latest exploration into Nollywood. Directed by Arie and Chuko Esiri, the directorial debut for the brothers looks to explore the city of Lagos with two different characters. In the first chapter titled ‘Spain’, we follow Mofe (Jude Akuwudike), a middle-aged factory technician who is more pessimistic of what his city holds and the future that Europe could bring him. The same occurs for Rosa (Temi Ami-Williams), a hairdresser looking for the same as Mofe but with different desires in ‘Italy’. Both of their social dynamics are unique and whilst comparable to others in Lagos, stay true to both of them. Any moment that may build upon drama is quickly shot down within the first few minutes, choosing to show you a real account of two people living in Nigeria. "This Is My Desire" revolves around the city of Lagos, the appeal to it and the frustration of wanting to leave – to seek a supposed better life in the Western world.
The camerawork and style of the Erisi Brothers are perfect for the tone of the film – there is such subtlety in how it moves, choosing to sit back and see the wider picture for both Mofe and Rosa. Everything inside the frame is beautiful despite the living conditions that they find themselves surrounded by. This is mostly due to the fact that the film is shot on 16mm, creating rich tones and complex hues for everything you could possibly imagine. Mofe’s red boiler suit sticks out compared to the grey machinery and blue walls feel reminiscent of the 70s era of filmmaking. The whole aspect of this story feels like a 70's B movie replacing an exaggerated plot for a slice of life where the characters go day-to-day without complicated drama in a city that’s beaming with life. There is no score within the film allowing the ambiance of the city to further dive into the everyday lives of these people. The only music heard is the same song played at a chapter’s beginning or overheard on the radio, a simple beat that feels trapped from over forty years ago.
The frame shines even brighter with the natural lighting that the Erisi Brothers make use of. There’s an orange tint to it through windows and curtains that complement close-ups of Mofe and Rosa even further. Despite their two differing mindsets, one young and full of ideas with the other pessimistic and bitter – the Erisi’s make them both shine. The spirit of Lagos seems to be the driving factor between these two and their stories. ‘Spain’ sees the lack of hope in Mofe and how the past had led him to be here. It’s unclear on whether he will escape Lagos for a more prosperous life but the chances seem muter. Whilst Rosa has connections and seems to have a wider reach of people in ‘Italy’. This second half is a lot lighter in how Rosa exchanges with people, entwining the characters of Lagos with the beauty of its grounded and natural choice of filming. However, the film isn’t segmented completely, choosing to conclude both stories at the film’s end. Both Akuwudike and Ami-Williams lead the film as we move with them into their realist stories of the complex desire to leave everything behind and start anew with greater prospects.
"This Is My Desire" is no doubt one of the best films I’ve seen this year, a perfect debut from an emerging wave of film. From its calming tone to its gentle camerawork to its authentic performances, this film is an absolute underrated gem worth watching.