B for Boy
Sunday 13th October, 3.15pm – VUE West End, Screen 7
Wednesday 16th October, 8.45pm – Ritzy Cinema, Screen 2
B for Boy is one of those odd films that many may feel they should praise, but perhaps can’t quite invest themselves in. A Nigerian entry for the London Film Festival’s first feature competition, the movie explores the unjust pressure upon Nigerian women to produce a male heir. With this in mind, we follow middle-aged mother Amaka as she goes to desperate measures to keep the miscarriage of her unborn son from her husband Nonso and overbearing in-laws.
Starring as Amaka, Uche Nwadili gives a performance that swings dramatically between moving and monotonous. While hers is an awful, heartbreaking predicament, it is rather difficult to connect with the character, perhaps because she behaves in a way that the audience won’t understand. Of course it is important to note that many people deal with loss in unusual ways, but Amaka’s behaviour comes across as strange rather than grief-stricken. For example, when Nonso (Nonso Odogwu) loses his brother and turns to her for comfort, Amaka unceremoniously shrugs him off to answer the ringing telephone. When Nonso tries to comfort her in turn, she spitefully accuses him of considering his late brother a “pest” before resuming her silent treatment.
The production also falls down at the technical hurdle of camerawork. Many scenes seem to be filmed with a handheld camera, resulting in a juddering picture. Though this technique can often work to give a gritty or intimate feel, it is unfortunately rather dizzying in this instance. Furthermore, the premise of a desperate woman faking a pregnancy to save her family has been seen so many times that is almost a cinematic trope. Amaka plays through all the usual scenarios: wearing a fake bump, avoiding her husband’s hands on her belly, and offering a lengthy confession only to discover that Nonso has fallen asleep and not heard a word.
Aside from Uche’s sporadic bursts of emotion, Odogwu is the film’s saving grace. Despite the character’s questionable judgement, Odogwu’s passionate and touching performance makes Nonso a sympathetic and likeable person.
The film is somewhat redeemed by a powerful final scene, but it is barely enough to make up for rest of the often lacklustre runtime. However, as writer-director Chika Anadu’s first feature film, B for Boy is still a triumph – the basic theme of loss will resonate with plenty of viewers, and is made even more poignant by the injustice of Amaka’s situation.
B for Boy is part of the first feature competition at the 57th London Film Festival.
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