Michael Jimoh puts his expertise to use in critiquing this film with the verdict that it may set the desired standard for Nollywood when it premiers later in the month
That might as well be a tentative title for this film because much of the actions tumble out through flashbacks. And they were not always delightful recollections by the two principal characters – Izu (Oris Erhuerho) and Victoria (Genevieve Nnaji) – who propel the story with the force of a dynamo at full steam.
Still, The Road to Yesterday is a symbolic title for a flick that has the pair brooding over awkward moments in their doomed relationship. Most of the action takes place on the road – on Lagos highways and byways, and dusty tracks in rural places – implying that though on motion themselves, their relationship is really going anywhere.
Ishaya Bako, the director of this charming 90-minute plus film, would have set a standard in Nollywood by the time it premieres on November 18 in cinemas across Nigeria, and for good reason. To start with, it is unusual by Nollywood standard.
Rather than crowding the film with all sorts of characters as is common with the average Nollywood film, the pair of Erhuerho and Nnaji carry viewers along, from the moment they met, through courtship to living together and falling apart briefly, then reuniting only to fall apart once again.
The night Erhuerho stormed out of his home as a justifiably angry spouse cheated on by Victoria, he never returned. After some tipples with his pals, Iju rams into another vehicle from the opposite direction. In coma, he is rushed to hospital where he never fully recovers and dies. Iju’s accident happens early in the film but the director is clever enough not to show his death in the end of the film; it is also the source of remembrance of things past on Victoria’s part.
Izu fist met Victoria through her cousin, Chioma ‘Chigul’ Omeruah and Majid Michel out on a date. It was reciprocal love at first sight for Izu and Victoria, what with Izu’s ruggedly attractive face and charismatic bearing. Victoria is, as in real life, a cool combination of poise and beauty, charming all the way. From their adulation for one another, it would have been a surprise if they didn’t marry. They do but there is a nasty surprise for Victoria.
On her birthday when Izu is supposed to take her out, he prefers the company of his secretary. By accident, Victoria shows up at his workplace and finds them romping on an office table. It is enough to blow any mind, especially having invested so much emotion in the relationship.
The rest can be fairly imagined. Victoria leaves, supposedly permanently, but is soon wooed back by the slick and stubborn Izu but after making a costly mistake. Dejected on account of Izu’s philandering particularly on her birthday, Victoria opts to stay at home bemoaning her fate. But her friends come calling, all of them clamouring for action at a club. At the end of the day or night, a sloshed Victoria lets her guard down and has a one-night stand with Majid Michael – a secret and unconscious pay back for Izu’s womanizing, perhaps.
That would later be Victoria’s albatross for the baby born to herself and Izu turns out a sickle cell carrier even when the couple have nothing of such in their genotype. Smart chap he is, Izu is spot on when he confronts his wife about the father of the child.
Suspense in film is not only when the good cop finally corners the bad ready to dispatch him with a fatal shot that has been long in coming. Bako shows he has the stuff of good directors all through the bickering between Izu and Victoria. With his hirsute visage, Izu sometimes comes across as a wounded lion, roaring from the depths of affronted pride and bruised ego. By the way, Erhuerho is a Nigerian/ British actor making a debut appearance in a Nollywood flick.
Nnaji is a household name whose charm both on and off screen cuts across a vast section of Nigeria and the African continent. As Victoria in The Road to Yesterday, Nnaji is sure to win more admirers for her first rate portrayal of a woman in love but equally doubtful of a cheating spouse who prefers to play Matcho than sit for decent conversation to resolve their matrimonial differences.
Watching the media screening at Genesis Deluxe Cinema at The Palms in Lekki recently reminds you of the husband/ wife exchanges between Nikole Kidman and Tom Cruise in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. In the film, it is Cruise as Dr. Bill Hartford who is the weaker partner. Erhuerho as Izu shows a parallel temperament in The Road to Yesterday by his minatory gestures and behavior.
Though he never strikes Victoria all through their quarrels, there is just that fear he might just do it. Though these two dominate the film, other actors like Chioma gave life to her role as Victoria’s cousin. She happily picks her up from the airport, drives her home, keeps her company and prays – like any potential matchmaker – for a lasting union between Victoria and Izu. She also lends funny asides to a film that would have been too serious with Victoria and Izu alone.
The Road to Yesterday is a wholly Nigerian film exploring the universal theme of love/ hates relationship between spouses. It is a subject matter Bako exploits masterfully, relying on a first-rate cast to tell the world a story through his unique directorial concept.
As a guest pointed out during post mortem, Victoria’s eyes were bloodshot thus making her look like a perpetually grief-stricken, long-suffering spouse of an unfeeling hubby. Again, it is not clear what Victoria does for a living. Is she a homemaker, an office woman on vacation or business woman? Then what’s the point of having the same guys play different roles as the doctor in an office in Lagos and the farmer in a bush on the way to Izu’s relation’s funeral? A peasant in a rustic setting will look a shade different from a white-collar medic in a metropolis, at least physically.
Four days before The Road to Yesterday was screened for the media, there was also a private screening of another film, Fifty, by EbonyLifeTV, founded and owned by Mo Abudu. It was the same venue in Lekki. Both premieres have shown a remarkable departure from the normal fare in Nollywood, as was made clear from the testimonies of senior filmmakers in the house.
Mahmoud Alli-Balogun, (Tango with Me) had genuine praises for Fifty, and supported by another film man, Tunde Kelani (Maami). Although they were not around for the second premiere, there were movie heavyweights at hand. One of them was Richard Mofe-Damijo who was simply bowled over by the performances of both cast and crew.