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“A Weekend to Forget” Review: Damola Ademola’s Entertaining Mystery Confounds Itself

“A Weekend to Forget” Review: Damola Ademola’s Entertaining Mystery Confounds Itself

A Weekend to Forget - Afrocritik

A Weekend to Forget is an unintentionally funny thesis on how to not get away with murder, where chivalry and discretion take startling dives for the dumps, and dead bodies rearrange themselves to prevent further injury.

By Victory Hayzard Solum

Four friends with some ten years of distance between them meet up for a reunion in this Damola Ademola-directed A Weekend to Forget. Ferdy (Elozonam Ogbolu) is the fresh kid who just returned from abroad with business schemes and ideas. Shima (Daniel Etim Effiong) is the well-sought-after realtor who shows up with his beautiful doctor wife, Layo (Ini Dima-Okojie). Tito (Stan Nze), the supposed face of Nollywood, has a promising acting career, and a fiancee/manager, Ndali (Erica Nlewedim), forever looking out for his interests. Bem (Neo Akpofure) is the high roller wannabe bringing undesired history with Lisa (Uche Montana), his sizzling hot girlfriend fitting to melt our screens. Between all seven of them are secrets and past traumas dripping fresh. And the roiling pot boils over when one of them winds up dead.

The film is executive produced by Chinaza Onuzo (Up North, Superstar), Zulu Oyibo (Day of Destiny, The Blood Covenant), and the director, in a collaboration between InkBlot Productions and FilmOne Studios, with a score by Kolade Morakinyo (Here Love Lies, Merry Men: The Real Yoruba Demons) which over-utilises the Kcee hit single, “Ojapiano”.

Helmed by the producer, Ademola (Day of Destiny, The Blood Covenant)  in his directorial debut, A Weekend to Forget is a suspense thriller which straddles the lines between psychological drama and the whodunnit mystery. For an opener, we are treated to a torture confrontation featuring Chief Ajasa as played by Akin Lewis (King of Boys, Your Excellency). Here he is an unforgiving businessman with a phallic fixation straight out of the Game of Thrones Ramsay Bolton playbook. He might have a problem keeping his villainous scowl in check, such as in a scene with his daughter, Lisa, and her boyfriend. But, at least, we are abreast with just what disastrous clouds hover over the ill-fated party when daddy’s little girl is discovered dead at the pool.

It is usually at this point in a whodunnit mystery that a relentless detective gets to work, sorting through the allotment of suspects. But members of this party do not know a thing about crime detection, and so with time running out on them, they must figure out precisely who had enough motive to commit the crime. Vendetta becomes the order of the day, as they all try to pin the murder on each other in an oddly democratic fashion.

The actors all do their best to portray their internal turmoils over the murder situation. Daniel Etim Effiong (Collision Course, Still Falling) plays Shima to stolid perfection. He is affable and straightforward in ways that scream of dependability, which renders his bitterness and betrayal colder and more despicable. Ini Dima-Okojie (Blood Sisters, Foreigner’s God) matches and even surpasses him in acting panache as his loving wife. She oozes charm and tranquillity, drawing you in with her moments of secret anxiety, that it is hard to not break along with her when the fingers of guilt point in her direction.

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Stan Nze (Rattlesnake: The Ahanna Story, The Set-Up 2) both gives and takes delight in his role. Never has anyone brought this much ease and relatability to scenes of mocking disregard. He takes on the mantle of selfishness and becomes an embodiment of scumitude with full-chested gravitas. And his final pronouncement of one character’s guilt is a moment in itself.

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Squared up against older and more experienced actors, Uche Montana (Love in a Pandemic, Light Hearts) holds her own, infusing her barbs with sufficient venom against the two-faced collective. But she is just as efficient in toning things down, becoming pliant and honey-tongued.

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Not much is required of Elozonam Ogbolu (Sanitation Day, Before Valentine’s) in his role. Still, he approaches it with commendable confidence and zest. When he laughs he laughs, and when he cries, he cries with the elemental fragility of the overwhelmed ajebutter. If his character takes an unbelievable turn in the final parts of the movie, it is more the fault of the writing than the actor’s.

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Less convincing than most is Neo Akpofure (Palava!) playing the despised hanger-on. This is especially sad as, in the absence of a detective, it falls to his character to interrogate the workings of the collective. However, armed with a knife, Neo cannot muster up any menace as he barks at the group who, beyond the contrivances of the script, cannot seem to believe him, either. Somehow, despite his defects, Erica Nlewedim (Devil in Agbada, Hire a Woman) manages to surpass him in onscreen needlessness. Whatever value her acting possesses lies in the abstractionist babble of doing without doing. Every pretence towards acting disappears whenever the camera points in her direction with emotive demands. And if this is not high art, what then can it be?

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That this is Ademola’s directorial debut is evident in the way that A Weekend to Forget seldom rises to the occasion in its blockings, save for one harrowing scene in the pool. The director is content to let scenes be carried by the editing and the actors’ varying capabilities. The cinematography, as captured by the industry’s busiest, Barnabas Emordi (The House of Secrets, Hey You!), would rather not get in the midst of the fray, robbing us of potentially immersive experiences — one’s response to the staging in an early champagne popping scene cannot but be a blatant lack of arousal. This lack of confidence and fervour must have carried over into the budget, which is why the mention of the word “billionaire” in a location such as where the movie takes place raises questions of a schizoid disconnect from reality. But if the directing cannot quite believe itself, how fares its source material?

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The script in A Weekend to Forget, as written by Joy Isi Bewaji (Seven and a Half Dates), is at once impressive and unseemly. The screenwriter seems to have an idea of the requirements for a good whodunnit mystery. First, a crime committed in a fashion that makes sense in the event of a grand reveal. Then, a host of characters with seemingly equal levels of motive and guilt, thus shedding light on humanity’s base instincts. The writing excels on these points, crafting solid characters with enough touchpoints for conflict. However, when it comes to the actual mechanics of storytelling, the film descends into laughable chaos.

A Weekend to Forget - Afrocritik

 

The reasonableness of Chekhov’s gun appears lost on the writer, and as such, characters, situations, and objects are set up without the concomitant conclusion and payoff. One character has been carrying out pregnancy tests for three weeks running. Why the sudden urgency beyond plot contrivance? We never find out. What was the point of the network outage? It is not as if the characters were out in the jungle, with a technological disconnect from civilisation adding extra peril. Does the excited mention of “Brownies!” give you expectations of intoxication and sensory disorientation? You will never see them again. Worst of all, why set up Chief Ajasa with all that malevolence if we will never have a demonstration in the story where it matters? The open-ended conclusion could have helped, leaving the possibility of impending doom present in our minds. But along comes a postscript to ruin even that for you.

Beyond these technicalities, A Weekend to Forget misreads its characters, reality, and humans in general. In a gathering inclusive of a straight-laced realtor and his Bible-believing wife, what did Ferdy mean by “leave everything at the door, including your moral code”? How does deleting videos from a phone avert a scandal, if they already exist on the internet? Knowing full well that one is innocent of a murder, and that one is thus in the company of a murderer, would one really be inclined towards a conspiracy of the same nature, rather than pursuing all possible avenues for escape? Whatever happened to familial bonds? And finally, how is it that a bunch of otherwise competent and street-smart characters do not realise that one cannot both drown and die in a car crash?

More prologue than an actual story in itself, A Weekend to Forget is an unintentionally funny thesis on how to not get away with murder, where chivalry and discretion take startling dives for the dumps, and dead bodies rearrange themselves to prevent further injury.

Rating: 2.5/5

(A Weekend to Forget is currently streaming on Prime Video)

Victory Hayzard Solum is a freelance writer with an irrepressible passion for the cinematic arts. Here he explores the sights, sounds, and magic of the shadow-making medium and their enrichment of the human experience. A longstanding ghostwriter, he may have authored the last bestselling novel you read.

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