“A Young Time Ago” Struggles to Break New Grounds
In the ever-evolving world of Nollywood, where genres have expanded beyond the confines of traditional family dramas and epic tales, romantic films have taken center stage. These cinematic narratives of love, heartbreak, and redemption have consistently captured the hearts of audiences, providing a means of escapism into realms where emotions run deep, and passion reign supreme.
“A Young Time Ago,” which Tolu Awobiyi skillfully directs, enters this well-trodden territory, offering a story that, while proficient in many aspects, struggles to offer the fresh perspectives that set apart outstanding romantic dramas.
The film’s dramatization revolves around Tayo, a young man whose heart yearns for Kemi, even though his affections remain unreciprocated. As we venture through their shared experiences in a university setting, the story unfurls, revealing the harsh realities of campus life, where love, betrayal, and the desire for retribution are the center of attention.
While these themes undoubtedly resonate and hold emotional weight, “A Young Time Ago” follows a narrative path that feels all too familiar.
One of the film’s standout features is its casting choices. The striking resemblance between the younger and older incarnations of Tayo is uncanny, not just in terms of physical appearance but also in their mannerisms. This authenticity in portraying the character’s growth over time is a testament to the meticulousness of the casting process.
Additionally, the production design excels in immersing the audience in the university environment. From bustling lecture halls to laid-back campus hangouts, the attention to detail adds a layer of reality that grounds the story.
The role of music in setting the tone and eliciting emotions in films is paramount, and “A Young Time Ago” recognizes this significance. The soundtrack is nothing short of superb, offering a selection of songs that not only complement the narrative but also evoke a profound sense of nostalgia. These musical choices elevate the viewing experience, intensifying the emotional resonance of key moments.
However, despite these commendable elements, “A Young Time Ago” struggles in terms of its storytelling and thematic exploration. The film grapples with conveying a coherent message particularly concerning the introduction of supernatural elements centered around the character, Uncle Gee.
The supernatural twist involving Uncle Gee, though intriguing, lacks the necessary development to seamlessly integrate into the narrative. The film tantalizes the concept of his otherworldly nature but fails to delve deep enough to make it an organic part of the story, resulting in audience perplexity rather than enlightenment.
Besides, the film addresses the crucial issue of rape, it does so in a manner that feels fragmented and unresolved, leaving viewers with lingering questions.
On the performance front, the film showcases moments of brilliance, yet also falters in pivotal emotional scenes. A notable example is a morning scene where a group of friends discusses Kemi’s predicament; the characters’ expressions and delivery fall short of conveying the gravity of the situation they are discussing.
Emotional depth plays a crucial role in the success of a romantic drama, as it is the emotional connection that engages the audience with the characters and their journey. Unfortunately, these moments fall short due to uneven acting performances.
Now, let’s delve into the heart of the film’s narrative. “A Young Time Ago” explores the complexities of love, betrayal, and revenge within a university setting, unearthing the gritty realities of campus life where young minds grapple with materialistic desires and peer pressure.
Kemi, a character driven by her pursuit of a well-connected and financially stable partner, represents the modern take on relationships, where financial stability often carries as much weight as emotional connection. This facet of the story adds a layer of realism, reflecting the challenges and choices faced by young adults in their quest for love.
One of the darker aspects of university life that the film delves into is cultism. Cult groups and fraternities have long been a stain on Nigerian campuses, notorious for their criminal activities, including revenge killings, torture, rape, and theft. “A Young Time Ago” sheds light on this dark underbelly of university life when Tayo aligns with a cult group to avenge Kemi’s rape. This decision sets off a chain of events that ultimately leads to tragedy, underscoring the destructive power of vengeance.
While the film ventures into these gritty and realistic themes, it does so within the confines of a somewhat formulaic romantic plot. It adheres to the standard narrative arc of boy meets girl, they face obstacles, endure separation, and ultimately reunite. While this approach can still prove effective when executed with freshness and nuance, “A Young Time Ago” fails to break free from the well-worn tropes of the genre.
As the narrative unfolds primarily through the lens of an older Tayo, portrayed by Daniel Etim Effiong, we are granted insight into his journey, infused with nostalgia and regret. This narrative choice adds depth to the character, but the film’s resolution feels overly neat and unrealistic. Tayo’s reunion with Kemi, after years of separation and trials, appears forced and strains credulity, leaving viewers questioning the authenticity of their rekindled feelings.
Uncle Gee, an enigmatic character revealed to be an angelic figure, introduces an element of the supernatural into the narrative. While this concept is fascinating, its execution falls short. The film hints at Uncle Gee’s weird nature but fails to examine his nature deep enough to make it an integral part of the story. His sudden revelation as a supernatural being lacks the necessary groundwork to make it believable, leaving the audience with a sense of confusion rather than clarity.
“A Young Time Ago” traverses’ familiar territory within the realm of romantic dramas. While it boasts strong casting choices, authentic production design, and a superb soundtrack, it falls short of delivering a fresh perspective on romantic storytelling. The film’s uneven performances make obvious its disjointed thematic elements and adherence to formulaic plotlines that hinder its ability to stand out in a crowded genre.
Overall, “A Young Time Ago” may find its audience among those seeking a nostalgic journey back to their university days and a classic tale of love and betrayal. However, for those yearning for a truly innovative and emotionally resonant romantic drama, it may leave them wanting more. It’s a film that attempts to evoke nostalgia for an era when the music of record label Mohit dominated the airwaves but falls short of delivering a truly unique narrative within the romantic genre.
Release Date: September 1, 2023
Runtime: 1 hour, and 51 minutes
Streaming Service: Prime Video
Director: Tolu Awobiyi
Cast: Timini Egbuson, Wale Ojo, Daniel Etim-Effiong, Sophie Alakija, Mofehintola Jebutu, Sandra Okunzuwa, and Tolu Osaile