Eyimofe Review

AKA: This is My Desire
Genre: Slice of Life/Drama
Year Released: 2020
Distributor: The Criterion Collection
Origin: Nigeria
Running Time: 116 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 13+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Mandabi, Haramuya, Felicite, Tasuma, Taxi, Home in Exile, Waiting for Happiness, Atlantics, Waalo Fendo
Notes: N/A
Fun Facts:
-Eyimofe takes place in Lagos, Nigeria which is the largest city in that country and 2nd only to Kinshasa, DRC in terms of population with over 15 million people living there. That’s roughly 5 times the population of Chicago to put this into perspective. Lagos is actually sister cities with Bucharest, Romania; Port of Spain, Trinidad; and two American cities with Atlanta, GA, and Gary, IN.

-The electrician Mofe is played by Jude Akuwudike. He is originally from Nigeria, but he graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. A few examples of his acting roles include movies and TV shows such as Beasts of No Nation, Sahara, Gangs of London, and The Crown.

-Eyimofe had a massive award sweep by winning 5 of the 7 nominations at the 2021 Africa Movie Academy Awards.

-This is the full-length directorial debut of identical twin brother filmmakers Arie and Chuko Esiri. They filmed the movie by using 16mm cameras in Lagos and a couple of scenes in New York City. Both of them have directed short films by themselves with the other brother helping out with writing or producing. Their first co-directing endeavor was Goose in 2017.

-Wrestling Fan Bonus: Mofe’s children talk about people winning a million dollars during a fight. They aren’t specific at first until one of them says that a certain unnamed person has beaten Shawn Michaels. That’s right. The Heart Break Kid was mentioned in passing in a Nigerian movie. This is really weird, not going to lie.

I have underestimated the geographical representation of The Criterion Collection. Granted, they aren’t at the levels of ArtMattan when it comes to Africa, but they have made some moves towards that continent recently. Unlike the examples from Senegal that I’ve reviewed from Criterion such as Black Girl, Mandabi (even though I saw it before they rescued the license), and Touki Bouki, I got to watch a Nigerian movie. Nigeria has been getting some mainstream attention with some Nollywood films getting attention on Netflix or musicians having hit songs in America like WizKid or Burna Boy. I guess Criterion wanted to be a part of that with some recent films.

All it took was a movie made by twin brothers to get their attention.

Eyimofe involves the lives of two Lagosians who are distantly connected. There’s a middle-aged electrician named Mofe who is stressed out at work and most of his family die due to a tragic generator accident at home while he was away. He gets busy training a new employee, but he is also trying to get his life in order and one potential way in his opinion involves going to Spain to make more money. He gets a passport even if it goes under the name “Sanchez” much to the laughter of his co-workers. Unfortunately, he has to sort matters with his immediate family messing around with the affairs. The other person is a woman named Rosa. She works two jobs to make ends meet as a hairstylist and a bartender in town. Rosa also has a little sister named Grace who is pregnant and whom she has to care for. Rosa also wants out of Nigeria by dreaming of going to Italy to make more money. Both of them are connected by a landlord named Mr. Vincent who is in charge of their apartment complex and interacts with both of them at separate times. Will either of them get a chance to go to Europe to get money for their families? What about how everyone seems to interact with them with metaphorical or literal cash registers?

I get that Nollywood has it’s own aesthetic and reputation, but Eyimofe does a few things differently. The Esiri brothers went with the neorealism route with 16mm cameras and organic filmmaking. However, don’t mistake this for low-budget drivel. This is still competently shot with clear camera work, creative angles, and natural settings. Everything still looks crisp despite the minimalist production. The motif of wanting to go to greener pastures in Europe (allegedly) isn’t new especially with other African films I’ve reviewed for years, but I was surprised by the take of this story. It was confusing at first with the Spain and Italy titles with the two “chapters” of Eyimofe since the scenery is clearly still in Nigeria, nor do you hear any Spanish or Italian with the exception of Mofe’s passport name mentioned, so I thought this was a misnomer. As the movie plays out, it makes more sense why they were named after those countries with the characterizations and narrative. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the situation doesn’t end up like Black Girl or Touki Bouki respectively. The focus isn’t entirely on post-colonialism (even though it should still be called out), but rather on how Mofe and Rosa interact with people when money is on the line. It can be a simple trip to the store or how emergency events happen to them and they need to pony up the cash. Rosa deals with having to pay for things and working two jobs to make sure things are okay as they can be, but there are times when she is just as much of a beggar as those who want to be with her. Mofe’s interactions involve business given his electrician job and even freelancing with appliance repairs, but he needs money to cover the coffin costs of his dead family members although his own father and uncle find a way to screw him over with the inheritance with legal loopholes. There is one powerful line where he said that the only time his father saw Precious’s [his wife’s] kids was when he buried them. That was a brutal indictment that their own grandfather didn’t see his own grandkids until they died. There was a good attempt with the background music flowing with the scenes without being intrusive or sound design like machines humming, electrical work, or some outdoor scenes with crowd noise. It added to the natural atmosphere of the film. The epilogue did have slight hope with one of the characters being more assertive and finding some kind of positive way even if it isn’t spelled out for that person. There was a good amount of creativity in this realistic setting and it didn’t rip off any other neorealist films.

There are elements in Eyimofe that are left to be desired if anyone pardons the Yoruba and English wordplay. I have to talk about the subtitle work. There were moments where nothing was translated when the characters were speaking Yoruba and Nigerian Pidgin. There were times when the characters were speaking plain English and the words didn’t match what they were saying even if both the spoken and subtitled dialogue had the same meaning. I understand that poverty played a part in the movie, but this got to poverty porn levels at times with the housing and neighborhoods. After watching Lunch Time Heroes and Green White Green years ago, I know not everything in Lagos, much less Nigeria looks like that so there are some aspects that won’t break any stereotypes of Africa with viewers in the Western Hemisphere. It’s not the worst example, but I still have to call it out. The storyline between Mr. Vincent and Rosa felt very bizarre with him in love with her while she only calls on him for help. Some of the dynamics didn’t seem right with how it’s portrayed. I don’t excuse the moments where he got flirty or her only using him when she needs financial support (keep in mind, he’s her landlord), but the writing felt a bit haphazard even if it shows the flaws of both characters. My biggest issue was the story meandering. I won’t bash the Span and Italy titles because I eventually got it as the movie progressed, but it focused on Mofe some and then Rosa for a huge portion of the movie. Mr. Vincent is a connection since he is their landlord, but the characters only interact once for just a couple of minutes. I could see some parallels, but they were reaching at times and didn’t feel like cohesive parallel stories as they should be. They don’t have to namedrop each other or talk to Mr. Vincent all the time, but I think the pacing and perspectives could’ve been more cohesive.

Eyimofe was a movie I didn’t find to be worth all of the hype from the Nigerian movie scene, but this is still worth your time. The neorealism setting was effective and the acting worked, too. The narrative of people dealing with tragedy and hardships worked surprisingly well. I did take issue with the depiction of poverty and the wandering storylines though. It was a good full-length debut from two filmmaking brothers. I hope the Esiri brothers can succeed and improve in their craft.

Adjustable Point System:
-Add 1-2 points if you like neorealism films.
-Add 1 point if you like Nigerian cinema.
-Subtract 1-2 points if you prefer big-budget movies.
-Subtract 1-3 points if you need parallel stories to be more cohesive and straightforward.

Pros:
-Solid neorealism production with the 16mm cameras
-Quality acting
-The social commentary on interactions as transactions is effective

Cons:
-Subtitle inconsistencies
-Can get to poverty porn levels at times
-The parallels between Mofe and Rosa could’ve been tightened up besides a chance encounter

Final Score: 7/10 points

Content Advisory: There aren’t many offensive things in Eyimofe, but it would be a safe bet for this to be for teens and up given the subject matter. There’s some casual drinking and Rosa does have a job at a bar, but no one gets drunk or does anything stupid with alcohol. There is brief sexual innuendo in passing. Mofe’s wife and children die and it can be disturbing to see their dead bodies in the home. The most eyebrow-raising thing would be a teen pregnancy plot point with Rosa’s little sister Grace and it’s not portrayed like Teen Mom. What makes this situation even weirder is when Mama Esther makes Grace take an oath using a small pouch. Esther makes her vow to give her child to her, but also to put some of her blood, a passport photo, and a few hair samples from a part of her body I won’t mention (Hint: It’s not the hair on her head). Thankfully, you don’t see the materials for this oath, but just the pouch.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos are property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Eyimofe is property of The Criterion Collection. The DVD cover is from The Criterion Collection and is property of The Criterion Collection.

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