We don’t know what Gabriel Afolayan was trying to achieve with his movie, but we know two things: It is a U-Turn from what we would have expected, mainly because he hid the true intentions of the story, and this review does not have any spoilers.
Title: U-Turn Running Time: 85 minutes Director: Gabriel Afolayan
The actor and singer, Gabriel Afolayan, announced his debut project as a writer, director and producer, and his followers and actors alike were excited. I mean, we were too, hence the reason we clicked it on Netflix.
“We have been in the lab working for a while. This was shot in four different states within Nigeria. Ladies and gents, I present to you, the story of a driver and his lone passenger as they embark on a long journey while hiding their true intentions from one another,” he wrote on Instagram.
The Plot – “U-Turn”
It begins with the scene of a typical Nigerian who prays to the Almighty for the blessings of life, struggles to get it all and follows societal demands but sees nothing in return. It then pans to the unrealistic, where a child is the leader of a three-man gang and has found an Igbo-speaking passenger for the distressed driver.
You are led into a conversation that involves the Yoruba-speaking driver, and the Igbo passenger. Thank God for pidgin or the English language – the conversation would have been impossible.
As human beings are prone to do, the driver curses his passenger, and, though, in a milder way, the passenger returns the favour. Now you begin to wonder what intentions they have towards each other. This intensifies when the passenger brings out a gun.
It is a series of simple yet ambiguous scenes, where subtle lessons are taught to the audience, and then the story ends up with a more confusing scene, and we can hardly connect the dots: The passenger is handed a business card to an employee at an embassy. He gets a job, becomes supposedly rich, the driver becomes his chauffeur, and it is happily ever after.
Characters in “U-Turn”
Gabriel Afolayan and Ebun Oloyede are the protagonists of “U-Turn”, but we have cameos from Jide Kosoko, Adunni Ade and Tina Mba. There are other characters too, but let’s talk about two of them.
Chukwudinma (Gabriel Afoloyan): The writer, producer and director of “U-Turn”, who is also one of the characters wants to tell the audience that he can speak Igbo, French and Yoruba seamlessly. But, that is mild. What is quite obvious is that he has illicit intentions of making money but we do not know what those intentions are – organ harvesting? highway robbery? one chance? And, even when you try to understand his facial expressions…-the more you look, the less you see.
Baba Sidi (Ebun Oloyede): This is the driver and he depicts a typical Nigerian intra or inter-state driver: promiscuous and overtly careless about responsible driving. Talk about driving without enough fuel and without an extra tire. He eventually becomes the ‘saviour’, and his intentions are clear – he is going to take Chukwudinma to a ritualist.
Kekere Ekun: This is the kid gang leader that is more bad taste than humourous. First of all, Lagos does not have such powerful kids in garages. Also, his role is not a comic relief but a depiction that is not obtainable anywhere in Nigeria. You would think movies are a representation of realities.
What do we think?
“U-Turn” tends towards the relatable – the struggles of being a passenger in the bus or car of an irresponsible driver. It opens with a drone shot of a park in Lagos and continues with the driver who is tired of life but is ‘in talks’ with a mistress to whom he periodically sends money.
As we would ordinarily have it, the visuals and the audio are clear, except when Baba Sidi and another driver run mad on the highway and we have to struggle to hear the conversation.
The presentation of the story, however, is simply a conjunction of scenes where the flow was not considered in several instances. One is where Chukwudinma receives a call from Cotonou. Another is where Baba Sidi flashes back to when he returned a bag and gets a business card. He transfers this card to Chukwudinma who gets a job and immediately becomes rich.
Besides that is a female character, Amoke (Adunni Ade), who has black teeth and all these tribal marks… humour or unnecessary?
The first many minutes of “U-Turn” makes you wonder about the trajectory you are supposed to follow, and the end increases the volume in that light.
On the bright side, and as we have with many Nigerian stories, the individual acting is beautiful.
Some basic lessons though:
- Don’t ever make calls at a fuel station
- Don’t make calls while driving, and when you have to, use an earpiece
- Family planning is not negotiable, so we don’t produce offsprings we can’t take care of.
- Responsible driving is also not negotiable. Check everything before hitting the road and understand that other drivers are on the road.
- Never follow the fast track to wealth.
Meanwhile, Gabriel Afolayan has a word:
“U-turn” is a satire set in real-time. This fiction stemmed from an idea. The minimalist theory, experimental expressions. Where the roll of event can be seen through a day Lens and less characters to slug it out. A different acting space for the performers…Mostly driven by “dialogue and action”. This is the type of story where the audience plays god, having fun and patiently watching how the characters react to laid situations. In this case, we have two naive crooks on a journey… let’s go to Ojota park now and follow them on the trip this December.“
Stream or skip?
Honestly, producing a highway movie is herculean. The logistics involved, especially where it involves more than one Nigerian State, require more than other stories would. But there are questions that were not answered, and they are not even open-ended.
Yet, different strokes for different folks, right? We would ask that you stream when you are done with others, at least to support Brother Gabriel’s first movie as a Writer, Producer and Director and understand if there’s potential lurking somewhere in-between.
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