‘Far From Home’ Is Surely far from Everyday Reality in Nigeria
This series is aptly titled for two reasons: thematically, it depicts abandonment; socially, in the Nigerian context, there is hardly any relatability. Therefore, Far from Home is both authentic and unreal.
Far From Home is the story of a young, ambitious but poor boy from the slums of Isale Eko who hopes to become a renowned artist. In pursuance of that dream, he applies for a scholarship grant at the elite, pre-varsity Wilmer Academy by some dishonest means that eventually turned into a web of problems for him.
A feeling of abandonment seems to permeate every action in this series. We see from the opening scenes the squalor Ishaya Bello (Mike Afolarin) the protagonist, lives in, and how he has to work as a maid for a rich family, alongside his mom every morning, to make ends meet.
During the day, he sells art, and at night, he tends a bar, all the while hoping to save enough for his arts program overseas.
In a rather soul-crushing way, too, Rahila (Tomi Ojo), his sister, was told by their mother Patricia (Funke Akindele) that “to attend that school is a dream that’ll not come to pass“, when the former was watching a Wilmer’s ad on TV.
From Adufe (Gbubemi Ejeye) going to work for Oga Rambo (Bolanle Ninalowo) to Michael (Moshood Fattah) getting beaten and severing his friendship with Ishaya to Carmen’s (Elma Mbadiwe) pain and aloofness, the most of the characters in Far From Home all have a part of them in need.
Of a future, and this lack takes root in various social problems depicted in the series- poverty; prostitution (at Rush club); avarice (Denrele’s power-hungry father pressuring him to cheat in an entrance exam just to get into Wilmer’s caucus of the privileged); drug abuse (by Wilmer’s students); broken homes (Atlas’ [Olumide Oworu] divorced and absentee mom who is also a blackmailer); crimes (kidnapping and illegal invasion at Wilmer).
These ills show a desertion of social values such as income equality, honesty, morality, strong family units, and civil behaviors necessary for a functioning community—from the individual to the institution.
While the above themes were right on the spot, other themes in Far from Home were off the mark for the Nigerian cultural background.
Undeniably, the series is fictional, and the creators are at liberty to imagine whatever they wished; however, the story could have then* been plotted in a strong Suspension of Disbelief. A lack of this, thereof, would leave most of their assumed audience lost and confused.
Far From Home is replete with the hallmarks of your classic American high school teen drama and setting: there were lockers in the hallway at Wilmer Academy, and Carmen had Ishaya come see her at a golf-and-horse course. This may be obtainable for some elite people in Nigeria, but it is not a given for the average and major Nigerians.
The pre-varsity academy also has a Founders’ Day ceremony, which climaxed in a cliche scene of Carmen rejecting her crown as the queen of Wilmer, right on the podium, because she found out that her boyfriend had been cheating on her with her best friend. Reggie (Natse Jemide) is notably the star football player known for hosting wild pool parties, and Zina (Genoveva Umeh), a cheerleader, is the unconventional teen with a snarky tongue who starts ‘cafeteria-like’ protests. Ishaya, in an unoriginal nod to Tariq St. Patrick from the Power Book II: Ghost series, was selling drugs through an app and receiving payment in the lockers (just) to sponsor his education.
As a result of these, Far from Home bears little to no resemblance to the Nigerian social sphere and teenagers here. A minor change like Wilmer Academy being a pre-degree (program) institute instead of a pre-varsity or A-Levels school would have stood out.
There were also production shortcomings like a storyline that wasn’t creatively fleshed out, plot holes, slow beginnings, rushed endings, mismatched dialogue, and poor directing.
The series does excellently well if you’re looking for an okay, while-away-time activity that doesn’t need you to rack your brain or keep you on the edge of your seat. It is also worthwhile as the first young adult series in the country and from West Africa to debut on Netflix.
It would be nice to see Nollywood movies and shows doing well out there, in the international sphere, and whatever celebrates our stories, our identities, our cultures, and our ways of life, portrayed with the finest cameras and CGIs and VFX is welcomed. And this can only be achieved by retaining our originality even as themes such as drug abuse, bullying, mental health, poverty, success, popularity, and many more are universal.
Release Date: 16 December 2022
Run time: Average of 40 minutes per episode (five episodes)
Streaming Service: Netflix
Director: Catherine Stewart, Kayode Kasum, Kenneth Gyang
Cast: Ishaya Bello, Elma Mbadiwe, Genoveva Umeh, Natse Jemide, Tomi Ojo, Olumide Oworu, Emeka Nwagbaraocha, Ruby Okezie, Raymond Umenze, Gbubemi Ejeye, Bolanle Ninalowo, Bucci Franklin and Moshood Fattah