Writer: Chuko Esiri
Director: Arie Esiri and Chuko Esiri
There are many experiences of home, some, like Pinter, are sinister and fraught while others are celebratory and restorative. But for Mofe and Rosa, the protagonists in Arie Esiri and Chuko Esiri’s debut film Eyimofe (This is My Desire), showing as part of the London Film Festival, home is a place of strife and burden as the leads plan journeys to Spain and Italy when family difficulties leave them yearning for a fresh start.
Living in Nigeria’s Lagos, Mofe is planning a trip to Spain with his new passport when a faulty generator causes the death of his sister and nephews. In the aftermath, Mofe must deal with the administrative fall-out exacerbated by a fractious relationship with his father and an unsympathetic boss. Meanwhile, Rosa looks after her pregnant teenage niece while working multiple jobs, trying to earn enough to take them both to Italy and a new beginning.
There is a quiet tragedy in the lives the characters created by writer Chuko Esiri’s, two people separated by age and gender but both carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. Using chapters named for their hoped-for destination, Mofe’s story is framed by the relationship with his sister in what is a sensitive examination of patriarchal masculinity as the essentially decent, hard-working and responsible Mofe endures blow after blow as his hope is slowly eroded.
In the complementary strand, Rosa’s world is a little brighter, filled with lovely clothes, colour and the lively nightlife of the city. But taking care of her school-age niece involves some painful compromises with the various men who show an interest in Rosa, offering the chance to move in more eclectic circles but slowly enmeshing the troubled young woman in events she cannot escape from.
The two stories are linked in several way, not only with Mofe and the landlord Mr Vincent appearing briefly in both, but in a focus on the monetary transactions that place undue pressures on the leads. Mofe must pay legal fees, funeral costs and damages while Rosa struggles to pay rent, visa fees and medical costs for her sister. Arie and Chuko Esiri ensure the audience hear these figures as the demands for payment tot up and unscrupulous members of their community take advantage of their desperation.
As Mofe, Jude Akuwudike gives a performance full of depth, revealing the inner sadness of an unassuming man just trying to get by. Even when his sister Precious dies, Akuwudike shows Mofe holding himself together and just going through the motions as events pile on top of him. Temiloluwa Ami-Williams’ Rosa is by contrast broken by her story, the proud and determined young woman making her own way in the early narrative is defeated by her experiences and, ultimately, caged by them.
Eyimofe (This is My Desire) is a little long but a nonetheless accomplished debut showing how dreams move slowly but permanently out of reach, and while Rosa and Mofe keep hoping that their time will come, circumstances force them to tame their desires and accept their home just to survive.
The BFI London Film Festival runs from 7 to 18 October