This Lady Called Life, a romance drama written by Toluwani Obayan and Kayode Kasum is proof that Nollywood is getting better. This is not to be confused with the word “Bigger” which has been true for the last ten years at least.
The film centers on Aiyetide (Bisola Aiyeola), an aspiring chef and single mother. Her mother’s outright dismissal of an out of wedlock child kept her away from family for the best part of five years, despite her father’s best efforts, and so, with little support from family and a single friend, she struggles to make money and a name for herself making and delivering home cooked meals.
Our introduction to her is in a scene of chaos that I suspect would not be uncommon in her life – she has a Chef’s exam to write, a meal to deliver, a child to worry about and a family emergency to attend to all in a half-day. How she handles this determines the rest of the movie, for the characters we are introduced to in these first few minutes form the core of her exciting and moving story.
First the delivery. In dropping off a dish of amala and gbegiri, she gets to meet the potential romantic foil in the handsome Obinna, who in this scene is given little to do other than give an admiring stare that lasts a little too long to not know that he would be back in her life.
She proceeds through the other tasks in franticness, and after convincing the woman at the exam venue to care for her son, Joseph, she can at long last settle for the exam that was the cause of so much stress.
Not for long though, as her phone rings shortly after to disturb the exams of all the participants in general and hers in particular, for she receives bad news of her mother’s illness and is forced to leave mid-examination.
From then on, hope begins to rise in the form of Obinna, who apparently loved the cooking so much, he came back for more. His bright, optimistic character is a change of pace from the gloom and struggle of her daily life, and he convinces and assists her to get another inroad to the chef competition.
As light comes, darkness threatens too, for her mother chooses to reward her for caring for her in illness with a barrage of verbal and mental abuse. Aiyetide will need to overcome trust and confidence issues if she is to achieve her dream career and love life and make a happy ending to a depressing story.
The quality of acting displayed by the major actors will headline any review of This Lady Called Life, and Bisola Aiyeola and Efa Iwara put in AMVCA – nominated performances to bring Obayan’s vision to life.
Bisola’s role here comes between appearances as the money minded, uncaring sibling on Sugar Rush and the help-turned-caring-sister to a wayward Timini Egbesun on “Breaded Life”, so the BBNaija runner-up’s versatility is not in question.
Her portrayal of the resilience and frustration of Aiyetide early in the film, and the spark of optimism that Obinna brings later are excellent, but the brightest glimpses of her talent were to come in the second half of the movie as she tackles fears head on and attempts to loosen the shackles that have held her back for so long.
For Efa Iwara to act opposite her, he needs to be just as good, and he is. His portrayal of Obinna is confident and carefree, enough to laugh in her face after upsetting her at their first conversation.
He is also charming and encouraging, and the duo display enough chemistry to move the romance subplot nicely along.
Tina Mba’s performance is also worthy of note, the verteran spends her golden years flip flopping between good and bad mother roles on screen, but nothing comes close to her channeling of the invective, vituperative mother here, not even 2017’s portrayal of the non-progressive Mama Isoken.
Other members of cast, Lota Chukwu Elixir, Wale Ojo and Jemima Osunde are given very little to do, but they produce satisfactory performances nonetheless.
This Lady Called Life was directed by Kayode Kasum, who brought to life Jide Kene Achifusi and Nancy Isime’s friendship turned love story on Kambili: The Whole 30 Yards.
Together with Obayan, he received a nomination for the AMVCA best writer of 2022, and it is a well deserved one, because they threaded a storyline that will interest you and pull you in, making you a participant in Aiyetide’s story – do not be surprised to hear yourself cheer her wins very loudly.