‘The Wildflower’ Exposes Nigeria’s Rape Culture in a Humorous Yet Authentic Way
The Wildflower movie sheds light on Nigeria’s rape culture, delving into the widespread acceptance of problematic behavior while also emphasizing the efforts of those aware but choose to cover it up for several reasons, and the lack of awareness of those who should be aware. The film portrays the experiences of several women who have encountered sexual harassment, abuse, and violence.
Although the film features two narratives that drive the plot – one narrative is that of the personal assistant to a CEO, Rolake, who gets a chance to work at a leading architectural firm, and the other narrative is that of her neighbor, Mama Adaolisa, who endures domestic abuse at her husband’s hands until tragedy strikes one day – the film majorly centers around Roli Dabiri, (Damilare Kuku).
Roli is an intelligent, smart-mouthed young woman with a master’s degree in architecture. She is interviewing for a job as a personal assistant to the CEO of an architectural firm, Mr. Gowon Williams, (Deyemi Okanlawon). Upon first laying eyes on Roli, Mr. Williams’ gaze is one of inappropriateness. As Roli secures the job, Mr. Gowon’s advances escalate and manifest in the form of inappropriate comments. Despite her boyfriend’s warnings, Roli idolizes Mr. Gowon and is blinded to his misconduct.
However, with her job requiring close contact with him, it is inevitable that he will abuse his power and force himself on her. To seek justice, Roli must confront Mr. Gowon and stand up to a man who holds the power to ruin her entire life.
One of the strengths of The Wildflower is how it shows how pervasive and insidious rape culture is. Johntana (Zubby Michael) harasses and even subtly assaults Adaolisa (Sandra Okunzuwa) in an open space long before he tries to take advantage of her in private. Mr. Gowon starts making inappropriate remarks about Roli’s very first day as his assistant but, even though it makes her uncomfortable now, it does not come off as abnormal enough to set off long-term alarms in her head. Mama Adaolisa, even as a victim of violence herself, fails to hear what a cry for help from her daughter is essentially when she sends a protesting Adaolisa on an errand to a man’s house. And nobody in Mr. Gowon’s firm seems to have had any idea about his pattern of inappropriate and violent behavior, with one female employee covering up for him in the middle of a sexual assault scandal.
Also, the movie’s ability to dramatize the two focal rape events simultaneously is also an interesting part of the film, which works well and lets it resonate better. However, the story is rushed towards the end, leaving some details unanswered, such as how Gowon still gives Roli’s boyfriend a job in a company he has been suspended from, and where Roli’s family is in all of these.
Additionally, the film’s subplots can be overwhelming, and the family’s story is sidelined, with portions of their story getting forgotten as soon as Roli’s story goes into full swing. By the time the film transforms into a courtroom drama, it becomes evident that the entire plot revolves around Roli, and the predominant purpose of Adaolisa’s family is to move Roli’s story along. Even the girls (Adaolisa and her younger sister, Cecilia) themselves get forgotten, and we never do find out how their own stories end.
The movie does an excellent job of portraying the realities vulnerable women face in Nigeria, whether at home or the workplace, and the effects it has on them and the people around them. The plot goes straight to the point without taking unnecessary twists and turns, and the main plot and subplots are beautifully detailed and structured, with character developments explored to reasonable extents.
The performances from the cast are average but convincing, with Deyemi Okanlawon playing the villain and Toyin Abraham embodying her role well. The quality of cinematography has improved, but there are still some issues with incoherent scene changes and over-extended scenes, especially the scenes with Rolake and her boyfriend (Eso Dike).
Overall, The Wildflower is a thought-provoking movie that exposes Nigeria’s rape culture in a humorous yet authentic way. While the multiple experiences may have been too much for one movie, the film’s messages are well-delivered, and the performances are exceptional. It is a movie that is worth watching for anyone who wants to gain insight into the complexities of gender relations and sexual violence in Nigeria, and for those who appreciate a well-crafted story and strong acting.
Release date: 27 May 2023 (Theatrical); 23 April 2023 (Netflix)
Runtime: 1 hour, 47 minutes, 17 seconds
Streaming service: Netflix
Director: Biodun Stephen
Cast: Damilare Kuku, Toyin Abraham, Deyemi Okanlawon, Sandra Okunzuwa, Nosa Rex, Eso Dike, Etinosa Idemudia Angel Unigwe, and Jide Kosoko