Eye For Film >> Movies >> Dara Ju (2017) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
Seyi (Aml Ameen) is a high flyer with a life experience that made it hard to even get off the ground. The son of Nigerian immigrants to New York, he lives life in a pressure cooker, with a sick dad and trouble at home meaning his mother and sister are depending on him, while at work the implication is he has to work harder and achieve more to stay on a level playing field with his white-bread trust-fund colleagues. This idea of having to out-perform is also hinted at by the film's title, never explained in the body of the movie, but which is the Yoruba word for "best". That's not counting the pressure that he is putting on himself to look good and perform well - a situation that he maintains through exercise and, less wholesomely, by snorting amphetamine-based stimulant Adderall - while at the same time as embarking on a tentative relationship with medical student Liz (Lucy Griffiths).
In short, debut feature director Anthony Onah is taking on a lot here, also somehow squeezing in an insider trading thriller element. The large amount of plot poses two problems for the fledgling director, in that it's hard to fit all the character and story development into the 90-minute runtime and, as the film progresses, he also finds it difficult to decide where his focus lies.
He gives the domestic drama element a strong sense of reality, even if it ultimately drifts towards soapy elements but Sey's dodgy trading at work is hard to follow, which means it fails to generate the tension it should. The drug addiction also feels like a step too far, acting more as a plot device to get Seyi into further difficulties than an organic part of his life.
Despite the film's shortcomings, there is a considerable amount to enjoy, not least in the strength of the acting across the board. British up-comers Ameen and Griffiths cope well with the demands of the American accent, even if Liz's character, like all the female parts here, remains somewhat under-developed. Ameen, in particular, brings subtlety to the role, gently probing at the way that trying to be all things to all men (and women) while retaining your own ambitions, is a tough road. There is also strong work from Michael Hyatt and Hope Olaide Wilson as Seyi's mum and sister - more British talent to look out for. Costume designers Missy DiPiero and Amanda Wing Yee Lee's use of clothing to further suggest the way Seyi is torn between his various identities - from the traditional Nigerian outfits often worn at home by his family to the over-priced suit he buys himself for a date - is also very strong.
There is plenty here to suggest Onah has the potential to become an impressive storyteller in future if he is willing to narrow his focus and have a little more faith in his non-generic ideas.Reviewed on: 04 Apr 2017