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“On The Edge” Review: Temitope Bolade-Akinbode’s Drama Highlights the Human Condition With Tragic Consequences

“On The Edge” Review: Temitope Bolade-Akinbode’s Drama Highlights the Human Condition With Tragic Consequences

On The Edge - Afrocritik

In its commitment to bringing us this cast of characters with all their drama, On The Edge teases but refrains, and always holds off from sliding into the melodramatic. And it yields delicious rewards.

By Victory Hayzard Solum

In Temitope Bolade-Akinbode’s 2023 drama, On The Edge, Tomisin, played by Olumide Oworu (Far From Home, A Tribe Called Judah), Jolomi, played by Charles Born (Mercy, Honey We Are Broke), and Abe, played by Chimezie Imo (Breath of Life, Sista), are three down-on-their-luck friends beset by an unabating case of the hard-knocks. The first is an unemployed graduate who lives with his parents, the second is a domestic servant and talented artist whose family is catered to by his sister’s abusive fraudster boyfriend, and the third is an area tout. Mira, played by Oluchi Amajuoyi (Ordinary Fellows), is the love of Tomisin’s life, a hairdresser with a job in far away Lekki, who hurries back home to their neighbourhood every night, to keep up with their love. Together, buoyed by the optimistic Tomisin, they all grapple with the improbability of making it out of their neighbourhood. But things aren’t necessarily rosier uptown.

Korede, played by Uzor Arukwe (A Tribe Called Judah, Prophetess), is a gubernatorial hopeful, whose chances at a successful campaign may be hinged on the whims of his Godfather, Hon. George, played to disgusting satisfaction by Patrick Doyle, whose sexual satisfaction is catered to by Lola, Korede’s wife, played by Zainab Balogun (Sylvia, Kofa), whom the young husband has since come to despise. To appease his bruised masculinity, Korede maintains a mistress on the side, who just happens to be Tomisin’s girlfriend, Mira. And thus, the boulder is set rolling towards catastrophe in this sordid tale of ambition, obsession, and betrayal.

Perhaps I was wrong to start this review with a description of the three boys. Korede and Mira are the true protagonists of this story. It is their desires, their turmoils, and their fates which drive the narrative in On The Edge.

One often finds in the struggle towards success that perhaps, there is never an end to this struggle, and that the top might be an arbitrary concept; there is always someone higher to whom one must pander if one is to forestall the threat of one’s decline. Korede stands as a figure of disillusionment for all optimists who believe in an end bolstered by success. He seems much beloved by most people of a lower status. He is greeted on every turn by chants of “Your Excellency”. But what if all that is a facade for mockery? He can, after all, be held up for long hours at supposed breakfast meetings by the perpetually late Honourable, and the political appointments promised to his friends and loyalists can be upturned without prior warning. His willingness to go on smiling and sucking up to his abuser turns his household into a broiling cauldron of disgust and resentment. But he is a good father, at least.

Uzor Arukwe - On The Edge - Review - Afrocritik

Mira’s story is only slightly different. She is just a hairdresser, after all, not a politician. But her relationship with Korede might be perceived as having some sort of luck on her side by distant observers. “Bottom power” is an infamous concept. Still, her efforts to get her boyfriend employment via Korede’s channels are foiled by the jealous man who is not so easily fooled. Her reassurances towards the blindsided Tomisin only serve to delay the inevitable. When she attempts to break off the more dishonourable of her relationships, she discovers that she has never had any choice in the matter. Her free will is a supposition, an illusion and nothing else. She has a boss, Olly, played by the gorgeous Jennifer Eliogu, whose link to the corridors of power must be maintained. But most importantly, Korede’s ways are highhanded and mighty.

Oluchi Amajuoyi - On The Edge - Review - Afrocritik

That Arukwe and Amajuoyi carry out these performances with such subtleties that the film almost never veers off from realism into melodrama is worth laurels and applause that is due to them and Bolade-Akinbode’s directing.

Arukwe is a marvel to behold in depicting Korede’s downward spiral towards villainy. Here is a man struggling with a million different emotions, but who must maintain what little control he has of himself. His split-moment decisions on how best to react to the unexpected take us into the surreal experience of having real life transposed on screen with all its brutalities. And it is the little people in On The Edge who bear the brunt of it all.

Jolomi’s unwillingness to walk the gilded pathways of the yahoo-boy sees him constantly harassed by his mother who will stop at nothing to shame and question his masculinity. Worse off, his job security as a domestic worker may be threatened by his boss’s wife whose demands are now discomfortingly sexual. Still, Born’s depiction of the irritable loudmouth who gives as good as he gets in most quarters ensures he never comes off as pathetic.

Abe has given up all hope of having a normal life. It may never have been an option for him in the first place. Upon his mother’s death and his father’s remarriage, he all but becomes an orphan whose only source of warmth and kindness is his two friends. To keep his head above ground, with any identity whatsoever, he hangs out with and has all the appearance of area touts. Still, Imo embodies him with a touch of empathy, drawing us in with a convincingly forceful portrayal of lines he will not cross.

Tomisin can do no wrong in this film, and perhaps, that is his greatest flaw. There is only so much that Oworu can do with the character. Forever hopeful, forever resilient, beyond momentary frustrations, he sees only the possibility of good in his situation and in everyone. And while that might make him the character with the least awareness, it also endears him to everyone around him. Perhaps if things work out for him, then they might have a chance. But the remoteness of danger never fully extinguishes it, and it sneaks up from angles least expected.

Of all the characters, perhaps Lola alone has learnt that sacrifices are demanded of us all, even when not explicitly expressed. So when her husband will not tell off the advances of his Godfather towards her, she takes this as his consent on the matter and does what he wills her to. Of course, this is a job that goes without appreciation. While they both attempt to shield their daughter from the mess of their actual lives, Balogun carries herself with the sort of pride and backbone that lets the character contend with the impotent rage of her dear husband, having the temerity to return venomous barb for venomous barb, and for this, of course, we must all hate her. But Balogun is even more effective in her character’s most vulnerable moments when she wishes that things be as they once were.

Zainab Balogun - On The Edge - Review - Afrocritik

In its commitment to bringing us this cast of characters with all their drama, On The Edge teases but refrains, and always holds off from sliding into the melodramatic. And it yields delicious rewards. There is a moment in the third act when I worried that it was about to lose it, with a seeming overestimation of the people’s capacity for action against the higher-ups. But this illusion is nipped in the bud with a sacrifice that ends in a twist no one sees coming.

The film offers us cinematography by Amarachukwu Udoezika (Badboys and Bridesmaids, Alone) that never slags off, however understated it might be. There are some shots involving two lanterns which betrays artistic intent. There is a particularly moving one involving candlelit faces. And through it all, On The Edge keeps us in its emotional grips with some masterful music by Ovie Agbani.

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Yet, the movie is not without its defects. The title card design is decidedly soapy, like something straight out of Wale Adenuga Production‘s anthology drama series, Super Story. And sometimes, perhaps this film is not so far off from that old show in its sensibilities. Just somewhat updated for the contemporary audience.

On The Edge - Afrocritik

There is something maddeningly annoying about Mira’s wig. We are made to believe she works at an upscale salon shop and receives gifts of money and more from her politician lover, and yet she is somehow stuck with one godawful wig for most of the movie. However, a character points this out in one scene, in a line that may have been improvised. The wig changes, afterwards, although considering the circumstances at the time, it is a wonder that Mira had any time or thoughts towards the beautification of her hair. So what do we make of this? Is the wig a continuity goof by the costume department? Or do we accept that the state of Mira’s life leaves her careless about the state of her hair, despite the appearances she is required to keep up with?

In its need to leave too much left unsaid, there arrives the question of a certain gun and where it may have come from. Without a proper set-up, one is left wrangling with too much analysis that is circumstantial, at best. What this does, though, is put us back in the mode of ’90s thrillers like Glamour Girls where characters might turn up with guns and the skills for handling them right out of the blues.

Whatever its flaws, however, On The Edge may be forgiven for bringing us the delightful talent of Darasimi Nadi (Obara’M, Egun), as she plays Ire, Korede’s daughter. Every scene with her present is lifted by a mature acting that is best suited for a film like this –  never over the top – and I can’t wait to see her in more projects.

With a script written by Bolade-Akinbode and Diche Enuwa (Fine Wine, Before Valentine’s), and produced by Writer’s Ink Concepts in conjunction with Five Two Entertainment & Media Ltd, On The Edge features a thoughtfully shot honest exposition of the filth of the human condition, carried through by immaculate and inspired acting performances.

Rating: 3/5

(On The Edge 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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