Director: Uduak-Obong Patrick
Writers: Lani Aisida
Stars: Judith Audu, Stan Nze, Rotimi Salami
“Is it ok to do bad things for good reasons?” That’s the premise of this broad comedy-drama. Just Not Married tells the story of Duke (Stan Nze), a promising undergraduate determined to do whatever it takes to see his mum live, and to get his family out of poverty. To do this, he enlists the help of his mechanic best friend, Lati (Rotimi Salami) and Lati’s one-time ghetto lover, Keji (Judith Audu). Together, they uncover and successfully carry out a new page in the familiar book of car theft: break in, disguise the plate numbers with “Just Married” plates and dress the part of newly weds returning from their wedding ceremony. The trio however find that they are in over their heads when they get in bed with criminal mastermind YJ. That doesn’t stop them however from wanting the classic “one last” operation.
The movie doesn’t waste your time with wide end shots that add nothing to the story. Although loose ends do appear in some of the dialogue, the bulk of the writing is good. Stan Nze as Duke is pitch perfect, and he has a perfectly suited right-hand man in Rotimi Salami’s Lati. Although he occasionally falters, he never has you wondering why he stands side by side an emerging Nze as the story’s protagonist. Together they are a lovely portrait of friendship in the midst of chaos.
Judith Audu’s Keji sometimes does too much acting with too little conviction, but finds a more comfortable seat in revealing the vulnerabilities of a woman torn between youthful impulsiveness and moral inquiry. Duke’s brother, Victor (Roland Obutu), a recent ex-con trying to find his place in society while attempting to win back his mother’s love, is the story’s surprising moral mouthpiece. The standout character however is Ekun, (Gregory Ojefua). Appearing in just four scenes, each one showing him breaking down mountains of food and barely saying a word, there was a relatable boisterousness to him that made every scene unforgettable.
“Just not married” uses a crowd-pleasing formula that has worked over and over again. The writers seemed to be working with a checklist of obligatory Robin Hood scenarios and didn’t want to leave anyone out. First time director, Uduak-Obong Patrick shares the indulgences of many a first-time filmmaker by throwing everything he could at the screen, and hoping one or more stick.
Narrating the aftermath of the group’s demise with the long tail ending was a bit lazy. The protagonist is easy to root for, and ending the story with an ambiguous “Duke remains at large” was simply not good enough. But strip away the movie’s excesses, it’s hard not to cheer the filmmakers for their ambitious portrait of the Nigerian youth pushed to the limit.
Just Not Married is definitely a worthy watch and from us at Sodas ‘N’ Popcorn, the movie earns a Popcorn and Hotdog
This review is written by Terver Bendega.