There’s a lot to unpack from Love Lives Here, but the most prominent is that “it’s never a good idea to go back to your ex.”
By Blessing Chinwendu Nwankwo
It’s not unusual for a lot of people to feel uneasy with romcoms, especially one as cheesy as Norman Maake’s Love Lives Here. However, there’s more to the movie than mere fictional characters and events.
Love Lives Here is a 2019 South African romcom with a fairytale ending where we see love once again conquering. The movie is a recent addition to the global streaming platform, Netflix’s South African collection. The South African movie industry seems to have embraced changes and growth in recent times. The quality of their production is taking a swift swing and is as satisfying as you can imagine it to be.
Love Lives Here explores the ebbs and flows of relationships while highlighting self-awareness, romance, cheating, and forgiveness that shape them.
The movie starts on a subtle note and eventually transitions into something only seen in fantasy movies. The persistence of Nathi’s love matched with Zinhle’s emotional presence is everything we dream about. Unfortunately, it will not be long before their relationship in La-La Land hits rough waters.
Love Lives Here centres on Zinhle Malinga (Thando Thabethe), a romantic made cynical by experience, and Nkosinathi Shange (Lungile Radu), who is also a romantic but doesn’t believe in happily ever afters. Zinhle’s world seems to crumble after the revelation of her lover’s life hits her, but not for long.
In the 94 minutes of its running time, the movie races across many issues and achieves a lot in its short time. Zinhle plays a journalist and hopeless romantic, whose obsession with a fairy-tale ending almost causes her to make the worst decision of her life. And although her friend had just recently divorced after what she themed a “beautiful wedding,” this did not at all alter her feelings towards relationships.
There’s a lot to unpack from Love Lives Here, but the most prominent is that “it’s never a good idea to go back to your ex.” Zinhle is seen outside of her bubbly fantasy only when with her friends and in a few scenes with her family; every other time, she seems to be in a dreamy fantasy of her own creation. Having first encountered her in the seasonal series How to Ruin Christmas, released in December 2020, Thando has displayed impeccable excellence in how she portrays her character on-screen. It is almost as though she and her character are the same on and off-screen.
In Love Lives Here, she once again encapsulates the character Zinhle so well that the viewers feel everything she feels. We loved when she loved, cried when she did and felt the sexual steam as it came without warning to our screens. And about the said steam, nothing prepares us for the +18 scenes that flash on our screens midway. Also featured are Zola Nombona, Sihle Ndaba, Madhushan Singh, Motlatsi Mafatshe, Clementina Mosimane, Nomalanga Shozi, and Nandi Nyembe among others.
Love Lives Here captures a bit of every likely person from our familiar neighbourhood and serves as both a relatable piece and a wake-up call to everyone, male or female, that they are enough and deserve to have it all. Although lost in her dreams and desire for a love story, we get to see Zinhle in her other elements; we see her as a friend, a daughter, and a “black belt” holder when necessary.
Unfortunately, all this does not keep her from being another African woman who is afraid to be criticised for her decision. In honest desperation for a happy ending, she is wooed by an acclaimed romantic proposal by her ex-cheating boyfriend, Kwena Mthiyane (Andile Gumbi), who proves Nathi’s philosophy that “a cheat never stops cheating.”
On the outside, Kwena seems charming and so in love with Zinhle, but behind closed doors, he commands so much respect, and is not the romantic type. He sends her to get a refill of his beer and nags her about her intake of wine. He says this in a way that suggests that he is of the opinion that a woman shouldn’t drink more than two glasses of wine. His actions towards her are more indicative of condescension than concern, and this is glaring to anyone or everyone seeing the flick.
The beauty of the film’s scripting is in how the women have attributed the power they so desire—the power to be sexually forward, and the power to love who they want. The women in Love Lives Here are very self-aware and forthright with their needs, their desires, and their pursuits, and this lets us see them as more than just trophy elements. However, the originality of the movie is rated below five out of ten as it follows the same path as many other romcoms. There is also a sufficient application of stylish costumes and South African music, but even that is not enough to make a good movie.
Love Lives Here subscribes to Hollywood’s “boy meets girl” style of romcom, which in turn raises the predictability of the movie; however, seeing that most culture-adapting movies are usually conservative, the sex scenes in this movie are likely the last thing you expect to see. My best advice is: don’t watch this with your parents or under-aged children.
Although the relationship between Nathi and Zinhle appears to be the catalyst for the entire film, upon closer inspection, there is no genuine moment between them. The chemistry is unrealistic and not easily convincing enough to persuade viewers that the pair is in love. However, this is forgivable seeing the subtle but skilful portrayal of South African culture applied on-screen. The viewers are enlightened on the traditional marriage styles of the South African culture. The bride and her bridesmaids show simplicity by getting rid of their hair extensions and artificial nails on their special day.
Love Lives Here is a predictable but entertaining film that does everything it can to keep the audience engaged. It’s not the best of the Made in South Africa films, but it’s pure gold that will never go out of style. Unfortunately, seeing as movie audiences get more exposure and grow more sophisticated by the day, this movie is unlikely to excite many viewers, and even more unlikely to become a box office hit.
(Watch Love Lives Here here on Netflix)
Blessing Chinwendu Nwankwo, a film critic, beautician, and accountant, currently writes from Lagos State, Nigeria. Feel free to drop your opinion in the comment section below. Connect with her on Twitter at @Glowup_by_Bee and on Instagram at @blackgirl_bee.