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“A Father’s Love” Review: Sebastian Ukwa Directs a Poignant Story With Subtlety and Nuance

“A Father’s Love” Review: Sebastian Ukwa Directs a Poignant Story With Subtlety and Nuance

A Father's Love | Afrocritik| Review

A Father’s Love is a testament to the quality of the First Features Project with stories that would resonate with audiences. 

By Joseph Jonathan 

I’ve been left impressed with Steve Gukas and Dotun Olakunri’s First Features Project since I watched Akored Azeez’s It Blooms in June and more recently, Courage Obayuwana’s Kill Boro.  With each watch, my admiration for the project’s dedication to showcasing exceptional emerging talent and storytelling has only grown stronger. So when I discovered that A Father’s Love, directed by Sebastian Ukwa, was being released on Prime Video, I couldn’t wait to experience another film from the Project. The anticipation was palpable, and I was eager to see how Ukwa’s vision would align with the project’s already worthwhile portfolio. 

With a screenplay by Sifa Adani Gowon, A Father’s Love tells the story of David Nwachukwu (David Jones David), a devoted low-income taxi driver who finds an abandoned baby in his taxi. Despite his own struggles, David, alongside his wife, Ladi (Yvonne Jegede) takes on the responsibility of caring for the child as they begin the search for the mother. However, as he continues, he uncovers a shocking revelation about his wife, forcing him to confront the complexities of love, sacrifice, and the unexpected truth.

There are several topics which A Father’s Love tries to address, with each one coming after the other like a gift with many wraps. From the outset, we’re introduced to David’s family, a relatable portrayal of a struggling household with his wife, an akara seller, and their three children. Despite their difficulties, they maintain a strong sense of optimism — the film’s first notable theme. While optimism in adversity is universal, the average Nigerian’s hope is distinguished by a unique intensity and resilience, a trait that is both remarkable and inspiring. For instance, David’s son, requires frequent hospital visits, forcing David to drain his savings, accumulate debt, and even compel his wife to stop her small business temporarily. Amidst this seemingly hopeless situation, where worry and despair naturally creep in, David remains steadfast, reassuring his family with the conviction that a better future lies ahead. This unshakeable belief in a better tomorrow is a hallmark of the Nigerian spirit, and the film remarkably captures this. 

A Father's Love Review: Sebastian Ukwa Directs a Poignant Story With Subtlety and Nuance |  Afrocritik

A Father’s Love also briefly attempts a social critique of corruption and institutional failure, as seen in the police station scene where David’s efforts to reunite the baby with his parents are met with apathy, false accusations, threats of unlawful arrest, and inefficiency, highlighting the systemic rot and mistrust between citizens and law enforcement in Nigeria. However, paternity fraud turns out to be the major theme as it unfolds during the second act, where Ladi’s desperate attempt to keep her family together leads her to commit the unthinkable.  Considering the sensitive nature of the issue, the film approaches it with subtlety, neither condoning nor condemning the culprit’s actions, but rather revealing how her partner’s actions may have influenced her decision. The film’s subtle approach is commendable, especially in a society like Nigeria where judgment and stigma are prevalent. Considering the buzz that has become associated with the issue in recent times, a subtle approach also helps foster a thoughtful conversation around it.

Admirably, the plot enjoys a steady progression as the various explored themes connect well from the first to the final act. However, some scenes drag on for too long and could’ve been done away with without hurting the plot. For instance, Ladi’s big reveal could’ve happened without the constant flashbacks and awkward pauses. Also, some of David’s visits to his friend, Panshak’s (Stanley ‘Funny Bone’ Chibuna) mechanic workshop were rather unnecessary. At some point, it felt as though David spent more time at the workshop than at his own home. 

Nevertheless, audiences can take solace in the worthwhile acting performances in those scenes and indeed the whole film. Coming from a few uninspiring minor roles (Omo Ghetto: The Saga, Oloture), David Jones David puts in a good shift in his first lead role, delivering a tour-de-force performance that showcases his range and depth. He brings a remarkable intensity and vulnerability to the character, conveying David’s struggles and emotions through subtle yet convincing body language, tone, and facial expressions. His performance is also perfectly complemented by Jegede, who shares a captivating on-screen chemistry with him. She delivers a believable and emotionally charged performance, and her interactions with David are fraught with tension and authenticity, making their relationship all the more compelling. The recent trend of child actors also continues in this film with Beloved Osagie, Ofon Success, and Darasimi Nadi who play David and Ladi’s children. Having been in films like Kill Boro and Obara’M, Osagie and Nadi deliver confident performances. However, a flaw shared by most of the cast is their haphazard delivery of Pidgin English, which unfortunately seems to be an industry-wide problem. 

A Father's Love Review: Sebastian Ukwa Directs a Poignant Story With Subtlety and Nuance | Afrocritik

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What A Father’s Love lacks in language delivery, it more than makes up for in cinematography. Through beautiful close-up shots that capture the subtleties of the characters’ emotions, the camera tenderly reveals the depths of their souls, conveying their pain, joy, and vulnerability in such a way that resonates deeply with the audience. For instance, there is a scene where David borrows money from his friend for his son’s medical bills. However, when Panshak stretches his hand to give him the money, the camera doesn’t pan to David receiving the money but instead focuses on the doctor (as he collects the money). This deliberate action creates a sense of tension and emphasises the gravity of the situation, highlighting the urgency of the medical bills and the weight of David’s responsibilities. By keeping the focus on the transaction itself, the camera underscores the financial struggles and the emotional toll on David, adding depth to the narrative.

Overall, A Father’s Love is a testament to the quality of the First Features Project with stories that would resonate with audiences. Being Ukwa’s debut feature, it also makes him one to watch in the industry. 

Rating: 2/5

Joseph Jonathan is a historian who seeks to understand how film shapes our cultural identity as a people. He believes that history is more about the future than the past. When he’s not writing about film, you can catch him listening to music or discussing politics. He tweets @JosieJp3.

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