In one of the most awkward breakfast scenes in cinema, Amaka (Uche Nwadili) finds that her mother-in-law has invited to the table a younger woman whom she hopes will become Amaka’s husband’s second wife. Amaka is nearly 40, has a seven-year-old daughter and is pregnant again, but she refuses to find out the baby’s gender. In Nigerian Igbo culture, if a woman fails to provide a male heir, the husband is bound by duty to perpetuate the family name with a second wife. Things get worse when Amaka loses the baby and, driven by desperation, looks into adoption.
It’s a confident debut for Nigerian director Chika Anadu, working with a cast of largely first-time actors. Nwadili is outstanding: statuesque, charismatic and naturalistic, and her increasingly rocky relationship with husband Nonso (Nonso Odogwu) is believable. Anadu exposes the ingrained misogyny and unfairness lurking under the façade of family and tradition: protestations of love and exclusivity are derisively dismissed as too ‘modern’. At times the film is reminiscent of the 2011 Iranian drama ‘A Separation’, also about a forward-thinking middle class couple caught up in a society that isn’t as progressive as they are.
But the plot is uncomplicated, and at almost two hours the message feels laboured. Nevertheless, an affecting film depicting an important, all-too-common situation.
Cast and crew