omugwo

OMUGWO’S CRAFT HOLDS LITTLE WEIGHT

Posted on Posted in Movie Critiques

This movie has got a strong connecting spirit for the average female Nigerian (or maybe male as well). A movie with good intentions as can be observed in its title, Omugwo, which, to me, means intensive new-born-nursing by mother or mother-in-law (or maybe some close relative or friend who cares enough and who would be allowed) for like three months.

To be honest, several times I had seen this movie in the cinema box-office, and all the time, I bypassed it as a home-video not worth the while, especially as the movie poster is crowded with too many busy character faces, including a famous home-video veteran (Patience Ozokwor).

Turns out, I wasn’t wrong about the home-video; at the same time, I wasn’t entirely right as I now completely remember why I used to enjoy this veteran’s performance.

THEME

In this story, there are three mothers: the nursing mother and the two mothers-in-law. It is interesting how the filmmaker mixes up their characters based on their nature of motherhood:

  • The nursing mother, Omotunde (Ayo Adesanya), who has not the foggiest clue of how to feed a baby, or how to– Well, we never get to see her do anything else with the baby but carry it and lament, giving room to the mothers-in-law to exercise their nursing skills.
  • The competent grandma (Patience Ozokwor) who appears to have the solution to every mother’s problem: how to breastfeed, bathe, and play with a baby.
  • The incompetent grandma, Candace (Omowunmi Dada) who has not a single skill. It is, however, unclear in the movie how she managed to take care of Omotunde at the age of 16. From the look of things, Candace should now be estranged from her daughter, and there are no clear markings in the movie as to how these two have remained bonded. Candace, from the way she leads her life has no time for domestics, and it is a little unrealistic that she is the first person Omotunde calls and holds a call with as she pushes her baby.

There seems to be a message with regards marriage, and how couples should manage their homes; there is the idea of keeping things secret and solving issues between the couple – understandably so. But is the audience expected to imagine that there is really something wrong with grandma, as the couple keep whispering to each other at the hospital that grandma can’t stay with them for a number of months? It appears here that there is a mix-up of reactions meant for Candace, the other grandma.

Here, also, there’s an insinuation that couples generally do not like or want omugwo, which any survey can prove is FALSE. This filmmaker could have made it clear why these ones in this movie really don’t want grandma. Did she do something unwelcoming in the past?

In the film, the couple lament back at home about grandma wanting to bathe baby and new mom. It beats me how this is such an issue to an almost helpless Omotunde. The audience needs to understand better what the trouble really is with sweet grandma.

Yes, Omotunde has an engineering (or architecture?) career, and her husband, Raymond (Ken Erics) works as a radio host. The filmmaker understands how important it is to juxtapose these concepts into the story. However, there are evidences that suggest he might not understand it quite well. From the look of things, Omotunde could have any other job; the intimacy of her chosen career is not examined in her childbirth, despite the breaking of her water at work and the paperwork she works on as baby cries. If she were a lawyer, a teacher, tour guide, or geoscientist, these story plots would remain the same! This further proves that the elaborate show of a building undergoing construction is, in fact, uncalled for.

The same could almost be said about her radio host husband. Only that, he keeps the world posted on things happening in his home, and in the end, Omotunde makes reference to his shows as an issue in their marriage. Unfortunately, we never see a moment where she is listening to the radio or even a moment where her mother-in-law speaks to her about Raymond’s shows. 6/10

PLOT

This movie has no discernible structure. The baby is born, drama around the baby, and that’s about it. It also almost feels like the filmmaker realized in the end that nothing has been achieved, and so manages to include a lesson learnt in the character of Omotunde. All this seems to be a problem because there is no clear objective from the start.

It also feels like if Candace was the protagonist, it would have settled better for major story, as she appears to be the one who has to deal with her daughter who has stubbornly now made her a grandmother; her new unwanted granddaughter; a son-in-law who doesn’t trust that she’s capable of anything; and a rival grandma who appears to be stealing her shine.

The structure becomes a little distorted as everyone’s objective is achieved already in the beginning:

  • Grandma has a new granddaughter and is going for Omugwo, the movie holds on to this.
  • Raymond has his radio fans who he can announce the birth of his child to, and he continues with the updates.
  • Omotunde is pregnant, water breaks and she gives birth to a normal child, she is on automatic maternity leave.

Candace remains the only one with excess troubles lurking around for resolution.
It is also unfortunate that this filmmaker makes no attempt to develop these few characters more than the generic details that he showcases with them.

In any case, a few interesting occurrences happen for plot’s sake:

  • The massaging of the new mum with hot water and the tying of the pouch she’s developed from the pregnancy.
  • The inability of Candace to wear the baby a diaper properly, and her adornment of the baby with nail polish, bangles and shades – seriously, that looked funny.
  • The baby loss at the supermarket scene.
  • Candace’s attempt at unknowingly drowning the child.
  • The closure Candace gets with the acceptance of her proposed name for the child, who Raymond now calls Ada-Regina.
  • The gifts each grandmother gets in the end that suits their personality.

Beautiful moments in the film, if only Omugwo had been properly crafted. 4/10

CHARACTER

A movie centered on the birth of a child should include some character traits of the child itself, irrespective of how old that child is. All the conflict in this movie happens because of this child, so she might as well do more than just crying (of which majority of the time, the audience can hear cries from an obviously sleeping baby!). There are dramatic things that a new born baby could do to create panic, but all the serious matters concerning the child are of no creation of it: Candace’s baby bath near-saga (the baby didn’t jerk and threaten to fall into the bath) or the missing-baby event (she didn’t initially throw a fit that could be part of the reason Candace got stressed and then got carried away). Soon, the movie starts looking like it is all about Candace, which turns out to be a somewhat brilliant savior-like twist, despite the still need of the baby’s traits.

Candace is over-the-top – this is not a good thing. She is also very unrealistic. It would be nice to understand her in-depth, or at least, have her more rounded. She’s the same from start to finish, and it can be concluded that she did not learn a thing from her three months of supposed omugwo. Luckily, she has some redeeming qualities: she admits and apologizes when it is her fault – at least it looks that way sometimes. She’s a bit cartoonish especially as she decides to paint the baby’s nails. It is difficult for an audience to relate to her ordeal, or understand how she came to be this way.

Candace serves as the antagonist in this story, who everyone should be weary of, but who truly is the protagonist? Certainly not Omotunde from my stand-point. If the filmmaker insists that she is, then she would be the weakest protagonist I ever saw.

Then again, could it be the two grandmas functioning as protagonist and antagonist with their conflicts and chosen names for the baby: Ada versus Regina?
The competent grandma is every reason this movie works. Everything she does stays relevant to what Omugwo really means. One could learn a whole lot about the concept simply by watching her do what she does in this movie.

It appears the couple, Omotunde and Raymond are only in this movie to give room for the mothers-in-law’s conflicts. They are nothing but pawns that dialogue on about random stuff that do not heighten the stakes of this movie. 4/10

DIALOGUE

“Ciao ciao” and “gracias” are the only two pieces of language Candace has learnt from Milan. It would be nice to have a plot twist that suggests that she has never really been to Italy. It would naturally fall in line with this amazing character. Ha ha ha.

The unique choice of wording grandma uses to describe Candace illuminates how much the audience is in awe of Candace’s looks and behaviors. Here, her nails are referred to as “claws” and her name is mocked “can dance”.

However, this same idiolect may not be so palatable to an audience who does not understand this sort of character, so it would have been nice to have the traits minimalized.

What is wrong with the nurses’ voices? Anytime they speak, it’s almost inaudible and unintelligible, leaving the audience to imagine she’s saying something nice, as everyone smiles afterwards. If her dialogue can be that predictable, it would have been better to not have her speak.

There is this unsettling feeling about Raymond as he speaks with the callers at his radio show. At first, it feels more like he’s chatting with a friend off-air. Later, after some clarity has been established concerning the concept, it does not make much sense that these callers, who most likely do not know Raymond face-to-face, have a rapport that is on-point and precise. Judging from the topic of discussion (i.e intimate details about Raymond’s married life), it all feels too contrived. It would be more credible if some of them called in to advice about taking his married life off-air, like typical Nigerians would do. Perhaps, I need to listen in to Nigerian radio more often; never experienced such nonsense.

Of course a lot of on-the-nose dialogue, with the usual Nollywood dose of talking heads. 4/10

PACING

Too slow, despite the engaging nature of the movie. Too much time is spent at the hospital arguing if the baby has elephant ears or not and what have you. Too much time is spent showing Omotunde annoyingly crying and acting clueless about the baby. Too much time spent with the grandmas fighting on the bed. Too much time spent on showing Candace preparing to bathe the baby. Too much time spent generally on things with not much progressive conflict.

However, a few catchy cinematic moments are observed. One unique area would be the match-cut between the grandmas singing and playing with the baby in the living room, and the methods in which they choose to do this.

The “no sub-plot” also keeps the movie so choked up that the audience never gets to see anything new about the characters from the time they are presented in the beginning. 5/10

Conclusively, based on observations of previous films produced by this filmmaker, it is clearly discernible that he has a great vision and aspiring auteurship as to what films he feels are captivating and inspiring for production. However, he might need to surround himself more with people that would better understand this vision and help him achieve what he alone cannot. 23/50

PERCENTAGE: 46%
GRADE: D

Isedehi Aigbogun, also known as ISD, is a staunch academic, holding a B.A., M.A., and PhD (in view) in English Language.

She’s a Screenwriter, Screenplay Analyst, Consultant, and Film Scriptic.

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