REVIEW: THE MEETING
Editor’s Note: This review of The Meeting has appeared elsewhere. It is belatedly republished on the occasion of the film’s DVD release.
The first feature film from The Audrey Silva Company, The Meeting, is a romantic comedy with one-half of the odd couple representing a demographic whose romantic inclination is mostly denied in Nollywood and possibly Nigeria. The other half represents a group whose appearance in films has been largely portrayed as victims of bombs, rituals and other negative features of the current socio-political milieu. That the film puts the gradual, if predictable development of love between a forty-something year old and a female corper at its centre is bold, especially as the attraction is played out without apparent financial inducement. But boldness is not always a virtue.
The Meeting opens with a not so meet-cute as corper, Ejura (played overenthusiastically by Linda Ejiofor) chats up weary executive Makinde Esho (newcomer Femi Jacobs) as he arrives in Abuja to seal a contract deal with a federal ministry, hoping to clinch the deal and head back to Lagos in time for his daughter’s graduation ceremony. Delayed by the impossible bureaucracy of government ministries, he turns to the young lady whom he realizes is his only friend in the city; but she, also, has a problem: she is on the cusp of a breakup with her boyfriend who does not understand her informal vow of chastity.
Although the lead roles are played competently, it is Rita Dominic’s role as secretary to the adulterous minister, and in her corrupt practices, a foil to the saintly Makinde, that was written to be more colourful and played effectively by the actress in heavy raggedy make-up. She is the sole Nollywood star in the line-up with sufficient screen time, and is the only character allowed to be one by the script-though her character could have been turned into a lifeless caricature by a lesser talent. Against the time honed talent of Ms Dominic, the competent performance of the Jacobs and Ejiofor pair- both visible on tv series Tinsel– are swept aside, as the viewer looks forward to the scenes featuring the cantankerous secretary.
For all the boldness it took to stage a love story between a man and a girl young enough to be his daughter, The Meeting becomes craven when there is finally an indication of romance: Ejura and Makinde share a rather chaste kiss and in the aftermath are so ashamed one would think they had practiced the entire contortions of the Kama Sutra only to notice a thousand voyeurs at the window. It amounts to disingenuousness to expect the audience to cheer a ‘mature’ love story then have the heterosexual pair behave like high school students when a critical point of adult relationship is reached.
Boldness is not always a virtue: in the face of the common ‘aristo phenomenon’ bedevilling most Nigerian schools, The Meeting appears to make a subtle case for such a relationship. Though not overtly done, the modus operandi is same: a rich old man invites a young virgin to an opulent hotel, buys her dinner, speaks to her in a manner she is not accustomed to, tells her she’s intelligent, opens up to her about nursing a hurt thus showing a chink of vulnerability in his all-masculine/sagely armour; she is drawn and begins to compare him to her boyfriend who inevitably appears brash and immature… This is essentially an old man’s wet dream where he can be himself and still have an ‘undefiled’ young woman to affirm his manhood. The Meeting includes the vague promise of a ring to make it all seem right and add the needed patina of legitimacy.
Of course, the noble lesson to be learnt is that love can happen to people irrespective of age difference. But only if the male is the older party with a non-existing wife. It is hard to believe this film would have been made if the genders were reversed. Now, that is the type of film for which boldness just might be a virtue.