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“Grown” Review: Ola Jegede and Empress Allen’s Young-Adult Drama is Bereft of Introspective Moments

“Grown” Review: Ola Jegede and Empress Allen’s Young-Adult Drama is Bereft of Introspective Moments

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Despite the inventive storytelling in Grown, there are noticeable unharmonious scenes layered upon each other.

By Seyi Lasisi

For a while,  Showmax, with its array of carefully–curated Nigerian TV series, was subconsciously my most preferred streaming platform. Despite the domineering presence and position of Netflix, I shared a sentimental attraction for the platform. Diiche, jointly directed by the quadruple James Omokwe, Tolu Ajayi, Ifeoma Nkiruka Chukwuogo, and Fiyin Gambo, is one of the few Nollywood series that, due to its inventiveness, will live beyond its time.  The crime procedural drama series, Crime and Justice Lagos, directed by the trio: Mak ‘Kusare, Onyinye Egenti, and Ade Edward, also shares this position. With these two series and a slew of others, the streaming platform gradually built a formidable catalogue of Nigerian original content.  But despite its impressive series portfolio, feature–length films have been abysmally traumatic. With its recent releases,  of which Grown, co–directed by Ola Jegede and Empress Allen, is inclusive, the streaming platform is steadyly retrogressing. 

It’s 2010. Seventeen–year–old Osas (Sarah Soma Obiekwe) the film’s lead, wants beyond anything, to be grown. She longs for adulthood, with the promise of limitless freedom and uncurtailed movement.  Mrs Ijebor, her mother (Ejovwoke Obas), in the conventional resolve of African mothers, steadily denies her this leisure. While the father (Patrick Diabuah) passively spurs on Osas’ teenage exuberance and avoids vocalising his concern about his daughter’s newly–found obsession with the idea of being an adult, the mother is vocal and pragmatic in laying bare her opposition to Osas’ attitude. The mother’s stare, body language, and words vocalise her deep-rooted concern. Sharing in this concern is Mrs Aje (Najite Dede), a supposedly creepy-looking woman with supernatural powers. In school, Osas, with Stella (Halimat Ganiyu) and Chinonso (Jane Efagwu), are poised as the school bullies. And Kwame/Edward (Myde Glover), with no uttered dialogue in the film, is occasionally the one who they bully. Through Mrs Aje’s mythical power, Osas’ wishes to be an adult is granted. 

Written by Nosa Isibor and Boakye D. Alpha, Grown poses as a young–adult fantasy film with an underlying message: “Adulthood na scam”. Being older comes with a semblance of freedom, but unlike the admirable abandonment of teenagehood, one also grapples  with responsibilities — responsibilities that Osas isn’t ready to welcome. Now grown and overburdened with work and family duties — a husband and children to attend to — the older Osas (played by Efe Irele) longs for the relative comfort and leisure of teenagehood. 

First, there’s a misreading in Osas’ story. In the film’s logline, she’s tagged as a “spoiled” teenage girl. But contrary to the logline, Osas is not as spoiled as the film wants us to believe. Admittedly, to avoid the dominating presence of her mother and explore her freedom, Osas yearns for the deceptive ease that adulthood promises which is met with reprove from her mother. For most parents,  while their concerns are valid, watching their children follow an unorthodox path is a preamble for lifelong pain and peril. This makes Osas’ mother to — in a bid to correct her daughter — constantly take a sermon-like tone which Osas reproves. Thus, while there is an appearance of truth in the “spoiled” adjective, it doesn’t accurately convey Osas’ internal conflict. Her disobedience, if any, is an indication of a growing teenage girl learning her place in the world. 

Still from Grown - Afrocritik
Still from Grown

Despite its inventive storytelling, there are also noticeable unharmonious scenes layered upon each other.  After discovering that she has miraculously grown from a teenager to an adult with two children, Osas, still believing she is a teenager, is confused.  And while Irele’s performance doesn’t accurately capture this mental dissonance, we begrudgingly watch her acting. At some point, Osas eases into her newly found life. At another point, she is confused, naive, and scared of the life we have seen her willingly embrace in previous scenes. These conflicting scenes make the film tedious to watch and the film eventually loses all plausibility. 

Grown - Showmax - poster - Afrocritik

Another painfully unexplored angle of the story is the psychological tapestry of the lead actor. Prior to inexplicable growth, the film doesn’t allow  Osas to take account of her thoughts or actions. While one  can dismiss this as the inability of teenagers to involve themselves in physiological introspection,  after Osas experiences an illogical and biology–defying growth, one would expect her to have moments of deep introspection.  

However implausible Grown becomes at different points, courtesy of the actors’ performance or script, the film does get its timeline right. Set between 2010 and 2024, the production designers, Olugbenga Ogunsina and Bolanle Jegede, and costume designer, Olly Agongon–Longe, make the effort to visually transport us to 2010. In place of the iPhone, Blackberry reigns supreme. While X (Twitter) and Instagram dominate 2024, in 2010, 2Go and Facebook were the go–to social media platforms. Typical of young adults in 2010, one of the film’s characrer room is adorn with posters of celebrities. This minute attention to detail helps in securing in viewers’ consciousness, the film’s timeline.

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Showmax has stepped up its commitment to telling African stories. It has also revamped its brand appearance and added incentives for its subscribers. But, with its recently–released titles, the platform,  much like its counterparts — Prime Video and Netflix — is still in a deep slumber. Showmax needs to wake up!

Rating: 2.5/5

(Grown is currently streaming on Showmax)

Seyi Lasisi is a Nigerian creative with an obsessive interest in Nigerian and African films as an art form. His film criticism aspires to engage the subtle and obvious politics, sentiments, and opinions of the filmmaker to see how they align with reality. He tweets @SeyiVortex. Email: seyi.lasisi@afrocritik.com. 

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