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Biodun Stephen’s “Momiwa” Explores Family Love Beyond Blood Ties

“Momiwa” is a poignant journey into the heart of what truly makes a family, challenging conventional notions with grace and sensitivity.
June 2, 2024
7:01 pm

“Momiwa” begins with a haunting flashback: neighbors rush to aid two children locked in an apartment, only for their frantic efforts to be halted by their father, Naeto (Uzor Arukwe), arriving with a key. Fast forward to the present, we see Momiwa (Blessing Jessica Obasi-Nze), who has been the family’s housekeeper and de facto mother figure for over a decade, ever since their mother, Kiki (Iyabo Ojo), abandoned them. The children, Abel (Michael Akpujiha) and Vida (Precious Udoh), and their father have since found stability, but their tranquility is upended by Kiki’s unexpected return.


The dynamic within this reconstructed family is warm and close-knit, with Momiwa serving not just as a housekeeper but as a maternal figure, especially to the children. Her deep care is evident in the way she tends to their needs, prays for them, and supports Naeto, blurring the lines of traditional household roles.


Tension mounts with the unexpected return of Kiki, who tries to reassert her position as the head of the family. Her return is not welcomed by all; while Abel is excited, Vida and Naeto are understandably wary. This plot twist introduces conflict and explores themes of forgiveness, trust, and the true essence of family. Kiki’s attempts to regain control and her treatment of Momiwa highlight societal issues regarding the treatment of housekeepers and the often-overlooked emotional labor they provide.


Stephen’s directorial choices are poignant, using flashbacks effectively to build empathy for her characters. These glimpses into the past not only flesh out the motivations of each character but also deepen the audience’s connection to their journey. Naeto’s initial refusal to take Kiki back is grounded in his past hurt and the visible transformation from a struggling single father to a well-groomed, stable parent thanks to Momiwa’s support.



The performances are a significant strength of the film. Uzor Arukwe’s portrayal of Naeto captures the struggle and eventual softening of a man dealing with the ghosts of his past. Blessing Jessica Obasi-Nze, despite a few lapses in accent, brings warmth and a nurturing spirit to her role, making Momiwa the emotional heart of the story. Iyabo Ojo’s Kiki is a complex character; her performance oscillates between vulnerability and antagonism, effectively making her a figure you love to hate.


However, the film does have its shortcomings. The rushed conclusion leaves some narrative threads unresolved. The audience is given scant information about Momiwa’s background and her life outside the family she cares for. This gap in the narrative leaves viewers wanting more insight into the character who is central to the story’s theme. Additionally, the rapid resolution of the conflict with Kiki feels somewhat contrived, as if the film is hurrying to tie up loose ends.


Stephen’s use of multiple languages—English, Igbo, Yoruba—enhances the film’s authenticity and cultural richness. The cinematography further explores the family’s grim past with their present affluence, visually narrating their journey. The film’s pacing, while mostly effective, falters slightly towards the end, with a resolution that feels somewhat rushed and leaves some character backstories underexplored.


At its core, Momiwa is an exploration of the true meaning of family. Stephen challenges the traditional belief that family bonds are solely defined by blood relations. Momiwa, though not a biological mother, becomes the heart of the family through her unwavering dedication and love. This theme resonates deeply, particularly in African contexts where domestic workers often play critical yet underappreciated roles in family structures.


Comparing “Momiwa” to other films in Stephen’s repertoire, such as “Breaded Life” and “Sista,” it is clear that her strength lies in crafting stories that deeply explores human relationships.


“Momiwa” is a thought-provoking film that challenges conventional notions of family. Despite some narrative flaws, its strong performances and heartfelt storytelling make it a memorable piece. Biodun Stephen continues to solidify her place in Nollywood as a storyteller who understands the complexities of human connections, delivering a film that is both entertaining and emotionally resonant.



Release Date: May 10, 2024

Running Time: 1 hour 47 minutes, 48 seconds

Streaming platform: Prime Video

Director: Biodun Stephen

Cast: Blessing Jessica, Iyabo Ojo, Uzor Arukwe, and Livian Afegbai

TNR Scorecard:


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