Review: Eyimofe (This is My Desire)

Written and directed by Chuko Esiri and co-written by Arie Esiri, in Lagos, Nigeria, tragedy and fate intervene as two people try to better the lives of their families. Starring: Jude Akuwudike, Cynthia Ebijie, Tomiwa Edun, Ejike Asiegbu, Sadiq Daba, Jacob Alexander and Temi Ami-Williams.

The opening of this film is so casually brutal, it has such an everyday tone then brings through this powerful wave of sadness and leaves Mofe with this giant hole in his life and a mountain of debt at a time where he was so close to leaving for a better life. You’d imagine starting off on that note that this film might be gritty and depressing but the absolutely brilliant thing about it is that it goes through each and every one of its events like they would happen for a normal person. It doesn’t try to over dramatize everything or give it a severely depressed feel, instead it embraces the struggle of life, that horrible things happen, you’re left to pick up the pieces and you have no choice but to keep going.

Every aspect of this film has such a humble, earnest tone and it sneaks up on you how compelling it is, particularly the direction has its feet firmly on the ground, it doesn’t sacrifice style but it also doesn’t unnecessarily try to add glamour. Stories about lives coincidentally intersecting one another are always satisfying and the way that the writing opens with this sadness then moves into embracing new life is a change you’d expect to be jarring but it works perfectly smoothly. The back and forth between characters could perhaps achieve a better balance but you do get to reach a satisfying depth for each of them. There are just a few moments where their lives intersect but they’re moments that strike a strong chord, considering the implications of how close you can be to others’ lives and not even know it.

Although the film is split between Mofe and Grace, there’s no doubt that the former anchors this film and Akuwudike gives an absolutely brilliant performance in this role. Playing Mofe presents an intense amount of sadness and under-appreciation, and he consistently portrays that in a way which restricts the emotion on the outside but you can feel his more affected inner. There’s something about the way Akuwudike presents this character that’s so easy to watch, he brings a strength and generosity and a whole host of other qualities that make him sincerely a good man. Ebijie as Grace presents a very different character, she has a lot more overt confidence and energy, she’s fighting her own battles but she just keeps on fighting and moving forward because she wants to protect her sister. Similarly she presents a character that’s effortless to watch because she’s a kind person, she’s not without a slightly darker edge but it’s one that helps her to fend for her family.

Eyimofe is humble, earnest, compelling and features two fantastic performances that anchor this film into the quietly powerful family drama that it is. The choices made by the filmmakers bring forth a huge amount of quality in its visual and its direction which work to emphasise the emotion of this unassuming story, rather than trying to add extra colour or vibrancy where it’s sorely not needed. The restraint and patience that’s at work here creates a rich story with a surprising depth and one that uses its sadness to expose the bureaucracy of death and the never-ending expenses and obstacles of trying to build a better life for your family.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯

Selected as part of London Film Festival’s
‘Journey’ strand

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