Director: Niyi Akinmolayan
Writers: Chinaza Onuzo
Stars: Adesua Etomi, OC Ukeje, Sola Fosudo, Ireti Doyle, Somkele Idhalama
One of Nollywood’s “Kryptonian” traits is the unappealing nature of our movie trailers. Most times, I write off the movie right from the trailer. The trailers are mostly cut as a mishmash of supposed best scenes from the movie and very little storytelling to tie it all together; and we have seen this happen a thousand times in Nollywood trailers. Every now and then, some trailers do get it right by introducing us to the movie appropriately without giving away too much. Just enough to raise the audience’s interest. Niyi Akinmolayan’s “The Arbitration” happens to be one of them.
I remember watching the impressive trailer and one particular scene caught my attention. “Honestly, do you think it’s actually possible for someone to rape someone without force the way they are describing?” Tomisin Bucknor (played with relish by Sola Fosudo), asked his fellow arbitrating colleague in what turned out to be one of the film’s most memorable scenes. That line, got me very curious.
I was curious to see if “The Arbitration” was going to be the intellectual court themed drama it promised.
The film tells the story of hunk-a-hunk, Gbenga (O.C Ukeje), a successful tech entrepreneur, and defendant in a lawsuit brought by his former employee and lover, Dara (Adesua Etomi) a software engineer whose talents were largely responsible for the success of Gbenga’s company.
The former colleagues, Dara and Gbenga shared a steamy two-year relationship that ended bitterly when Gbenga, having learnt that his wife was pregnant with their first child, decided to commit to the marriage he was about exiting. Unable to stomach the betrayal (the last straw for Dara in a long list of Gbenga’s wrongdoings), she quits the company and initiates a lawsuit to claim her previously promised shares in the company. Her lawsuit seeks compensation for those accounts, but she is also trying to get Gbenga to admit he raped her after the breakup. (You know that saying about women and scorn.)
The brilliant banter and undeniable chemistry between Gbenga and Dara would have been the best thing about this movie, but Ireti Doyle, (who played Funlayo Johnson, Gbenga’s attorney) acted circles around everyone else and stole the show all to herself.
Ukeje on his part, once again displayed his ability to embody a multi-layered character. In this case, one that is both completely douche, yet hard not to root for (it didn’t hurt at all that he took his shirt off on multiple occasions).
Somkele Idhalama, who played Omawumi Horsfall, Dara’s Lawyer, had the herculean task of going up against Doyle. Not an easy feat on any day, but on this one, Idhalama struggled to bring her character to life. She also could have been more convincing, especially with her expressions which on several occasions were either over or underacted.
The statue for the evening went to Chinaza Onuzo, the script writer for his ability to craft a court themed drama and avoid it slipping into an abyss of boredom thanks to the well placed dynamics to the story. What I loved about the script was the layer and structure it had. The movie kicked off, teasing multiple versions to every story, and before it is done, we are introduced to all three versions intelligently, in well-crafted dialogues and memorable one-liners.
Occasionally, the movie had to fall back on lazy troupes and predictable, sometimes tautological barbs. It slowed down a bit midway through the second act, but picked back up and overall, delivered a memorable story.
The technical department wasn’t as much of a win as the story-telling was. Kudos for the continuity and editing, but the last scene should have been cut out in the final cut. For an intellectual drama, the audience should have been trusted enough to figure out the “truth” on their own. After all, the goal of the movie was to start conversations and arguments about what exactly the truth was. We didn’t need to be spoon-fed. The sound production was downright horrible. Varying levels of voices in the same room, amplified and exaggerated sounds of footsteps and the disturbance of sounding jewelleries, all testaments to the poor sound production.
In the end, “The Arbitration” is an enjoyable movie and was worthy enough to be checked out on more than one occasion. The technical flaws are in no way a hindrance to the beautifully told story. If you are a fan of intelligent, dialogue driven movies, this one is definitely for you.
Arguably Niyi Akinmolayan’s best production till date, “The Arbitration” earns a Popcorn and Hotdog.