Tope Oshin Delivers a Cold-Blooded Thriller With ‘Here Love Lies’
Titles can be very deceitful. You hear the name Here Love Lies and think it is going to be another romantic comedy where the guy meets the girl, they fall in love, and live happily ever after. No one could ever prepare you for the 360-degree turn this film took. What started as a fluffy romantic tale quickly turned into a sinister and dark plot.
Written by Oshin and Ayoade Adeyanju, the film centers around single mother Amanda (Oshin) who is unlucky in love. Every man she has ever dated has either cheated on her, lied to her, or fled as soon as they hear that she has a child. She finds love in a hopeless pool of heartbreak when an avid commenter on her blog, an American named Michael (Shelbourne) takes an interest in her.
They meet in New York City and, even though, things are rocky at first, their chemistry is undeniable. Sparks fly and Amanda thinks she has found the perfect man: rich, handsome, successful, and unfazed by the fact that she has a child. All is dandy in the world, and the couple is on Cloud nine until Amanda realizes that Michael is a serial killer with an itch for luring Nigerian women into his home, deceiving them with promises of affection, and murdering them in cold blood.
She would have been the next victim had it not been for the clever nose of an undercover detective, Liz (Walsh) whom she initially thought was her rival for Michael’s affection.
Plot-wise, the film is cliché, yet brilliant−cliché in the sense that we have seen this song and dance play out more in Hollywood than Nollywood, but brilliant, nonetheless. The plot holes are minimal and each sequence is reasonably connected to the next so that the audience is in the loop with the happenings in the film.
The first sequence takes us ten years back to a young, fresh-faced Amanda (Gabriel) who is disowned by her staunch Catholic parents because of her pregnancy outside of wedlock. Her options were a forced abortion or be disowned and she chose the latter. The second sequence shows a mature Amanda raising her teenage daughter, Nora (Unigwe) in Port Harcourt together with her best friend, Kemi (Dada). She blocks all contact with her parents and is living her life as happily as she can, though there is the constant sadness of being unlucky in love.
The film’s take on parental trauma is very important. It is not a new thing in Nollywood to see parents disowning their daughters for being pregnant outside of wedlock, but what Here Love Lies does differently is the delivery. Oshin’s superb acting showcases the pain of parental abandonment, especially in times of need. What Amanda’s parents did constantly circles her mind like a broken record and it affects her adult life.
She has nightmares and panic attacks from thinking of how tough life was on the streets with a young child. To make matters worse, they disowned her for selfish reasons: her father, Abraham (Dede) was to get a pastoral appointment in the Netherlands and if the parish found out that he had a pregnant daughter, they would disqualify him immediately. Saving face was more important than saving his daughter. Amanda held a grudge, and quite frankly, she had every right to!
The third sequence is where Amanda finds love in the arms of Michael and all is going well till she painfully learns who he really is. Michael’s actions were something no one saw coming, at least if you are watching the film objectively. He was sweet, romantic, and looked like a man with a good head on his shoulders. Any woman in Amanda’s shoes would have fallen head over heels in love with him.
He owns a tourism business, has his own house, cooks, cleans, and minds his business. He was the ideal man and perhaps that was the problem. Shelbourne’s take as an unassuming serial killer was very good for his Nollywood debut. Like a predator, he was slow with his descent, calculating with his moves, and swift with his pounce. Hopefully, we get to see more of him in future Nollywood productions.
Things aren’t so rosy in the fourth sequence either as a detective unveils the truth about Michael to Amanda. As she uncovers his horrendous past, she thanks the God she serves that she wasn’t buried in the woods next to his other victims. After her woes in New York City, she returns home to the people she cherishes the most: her daughter and her best friend. In a surprising turn, she reunites with her family and even prepares for her sister, Muna’s (Zibili) wedding.
Here Love Lies excels in its masterfully curated soundtrack. Each song was carefully chosen to propel the plot forward. From the gospel track used in the first sequence to highlight Amanda literally growing up in the church and listening to her father giving sermons to the pew to the heart-thumping bass sounds used to highlight Amanda’s fight with Michael in the battle for her life.
The cinematography was picture-perfect, so was the editing and the film did not, for lack of a better term, “do too much.” It was simple, not a waste of two hours, and was never boring.
The only criticisms are that the film propels the irking narrative of Nigerians being scammers. Michael hides his fake identity from Amanda because he thought he was going to be scammed by her (ironic because he ended up being the real scam). Yes, this is sadly how some foreigners view Nigerians, but please do not rob it in our faces. Nigerians are hardworking people and do not deserve to be stereotyped because of a few bad eggs.
Also, where was Michael’s backstory? We were told that he was mentally ill and had a fetish for killing Nigerian women, but was what his reason? Why Nigerian women specifically? Did one break his heart or was he just another racist creep disguised as a nice guy? Other than the scanty clues of his past murders scattered in his room, Michael’s past is left open to interpretation. It would have been nice to know the reason his target was Nigerian women.
Conclusively, what is the moral of the story in Here Love Lies? If a person is too good to be true, they most likely are! Trust your head, not your heart, and “wise up.”
Release Date: March 3, 2023
Run-time: 2 hours, 11 minutes, and 15 seconds
Streaming Service: Netflix
Director: Tope Oshin
Cast: Tope Oshin, Tim Shelbourne, Sam Dede, Tina Mba, Omowunmi Dada, Angel Unigwe, Barbara Walsh, Bambi Everson, Stephanie Zibili, Daniel Etim Effiong, and Omozele Gabriel