…as Christmas approaches with its own packages, “Fine Wine” re-emerges after its initial release in cinemas on February 12, 2021, this time on Netflix…
By Vivian Nneka Nwajiaku
Nollywood, and, frankly, the global film industry, is incapable of running out of romantic dramas. Every year, particularly during Valentine and Christmas seasons, filmmakers flood the big screen with love stories. On us filmgoers’ part, we love to watch them for their light-heartedness and propensity to spread a healthy dose of hope. Valentine season this year came with its own bundle of love and hope. And as Christmas approaches with its own packages, “Fine Wine” re-emerges after its initial release in cinemas on February 12, 2021, this time on Netflix.
Starring veteran actor, Richard Mofe-Damjo (RMD), and Ego Nwosu as lead actors, Seyi Babatope (When Love Happens, Lunch Time Heroes, Sanitation Day) directs this romantic drama based on a screenplay by Temitope Bolade and Diche Enunwa. The movie also features Zainab Balogun, Ademola Adedoyin, Keppy Ekpenyong, Tina Mba, Nse Ikpe-Etim, Itombra Bofie, and Baaj Adebule.
Fine Wine follows the story of Mr Seye George (RMD) who falls in love with a much younger woman, Kaima (Nwosu). Mr George has just been made it to Forbes’ List of the 100 Most Influential Africans, an achievement that is announced way too many times to be missed. His bank takes the opportunity to encourage him to advance him a loan to expand his business. The officer handling his account is Tunji (Adedoyin), Kaima’s unreliable boyfriend whose attention she constantly has to beg for. Consequently, it does not come as a surprise that Kaima would start to draw comparisons when another man starts to pay genuine attention to her, even if that other man is “old.” Meanwhile, Mr George’s ex-wife, Ame (Ikpe-Etim), who left him because of his former financial status, keeps calling him and interfering in his affairs in a bid to get back in his good graces now that he is rich.
As a romantic drama, Fine Wine hits most of the right spots. Of course, the age gap makes the romantic pairing in this movie a very unusual one for a Nollywood romance drama—for any romance drama, really. But as Nollywood movies are known to overdo drama in the name of conflict, it is particularly interesting that this movie does not go down the path of warfare. Mr George’s children, Temisan (Balogun) and Sammy (Adebule), are about Kaima’s age, if not older, but no fires of envy or disapproval are stoked. Kaima easily bonds with Temisan with the latter actively “shipping” her father’s relationship with the latter. And there is never any indication that Sammy has any problem with his father’s interest in a younger woman.
But apart from the age gap, Fine Wine is the same old romantic drama. From the awkward — if not downright disastrous — first meet to the accidental touching of hands and the accidental spilling of a drink, there are enough romance tropes for two movies in this one film.
However, the movie excellently walks the fine line between cliché and overkill, and its ability to appear original despite being filled with tropes is very impressive.
But the plot progresses with too slow a pace, weighed down by the many unnecessarily dragged-out scenes that end up making the movie longer than it deserves to be, with a running time of two hours and fifteen minutes. The relationship itself misses a link somewhere in the middle. Mr George is much older, and Nigerian values as regards relations with elders are mostly built on fear masked as respect. So Kaima is expectedly uncomfortable and shifty around this man. But it takes just one time when she finds him ill and in a vulnerable state for her to completely relax. From that moment, she becomes different around him, almost totally comfortable. Hints have been dropped that she likes him, and Mr George is an easy person to talk to, anyway, so her sudden comfort does not quite feel abrupt. But it still feels like it happened too fast, especially for a movie that takes its time with almost everything else.
Disturbingly, the conflict never really comes to a head. It is not as if an image has been created of a family that would welcome a relationship of that nature. Kaima struggles and is never quite able to tell her sister (Bofie) that Mr George is actually an older man. And she never brings the discussion up with her mother (Mba), either. In fact, Kaima’s mother clearly roots for Tunji from the very beginning to the end. And after setting up what appears to be a relationship that will be met with disapproval from Kaima’s family, Kaima’s sister takes the entire affair in good stride, and Kaima’s mother is left entirely out of the situation: we are never let in on her thoughts about Seye and her daughter’s relationship with a man who could very well be Kaima’s father.
There is something to be said about Mr George’s relationship with his children — the closeness and rapport. On an average, Nigerian parent-child relationships as displayed by Nollywood films often lacks rapport, and it makes sense, considering the reality of Nigerian parenting. But there exist genuine relationships marked by free communication, and though some films do try to represent that, there is a tendency to over-fictionalise it to the point that it feels borrowed from Western television. An archetype of this extreme parent-child rapport is Kayode Kasum’s 2020 romantic drama, Kambili. In that movie, the titular character had a relationship with her mother that was fraught with tension flowing from an unexplored past, but despite the obvious distance between them, they had a rapport that was too cosy for even a relationship without a history like theirs. It felt like a Hollywood rip-off. Fine Wine does not. Between Mr George’s comfortable relationship with his children and Ame’s damaged relationship with them, the movie steers the Nigerian parent-child wheel with admirable ease and charm.
Ultimately, from its lovely cast to its delivery of actual chemistry, Fine Wine is a more than decent effort. It could have been a classic, but it fell short with its incomplete resolution. Yet, it is definitely a movie that should be referenced for years to come.
Vivian Nneka Nwajiaku, a film critic, writer and lawyer, currently writes from Uyo. Connect with her on Instagram @_vivian.nneka