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“Shina” Review: A Promising Story Undermined by Narrative Shortcomings

“Shina” Review: A Promising Story Undermined by Narrative Shortcomings

“Shina” Review: A Promising Story Undermined by Narrative Shortcomings | Afrocritik

Despite its timely and thought-provoking subject matter, the poor execution and lack of attention to detail in the script ultimately undermine its impact. 

By Joseph Jonathan 

It is often said that “two heads are better than one”, an allusion to the fact that when two people work together and share ideas, they can achieve more than one person working alone. However, after watching Shina on Netflix, I wondered whether the film would’ve benefited from a single directorial vision rather than co-direction by Muyiwa Adesokun and Carmen L. Ike-Okoro.

Written by Adesokun, Shina follows the transformative journey of its titular character, Shina (Timini Egbuson), a man who attempts to turn his life around after years of drug addiction, alcoholism, and cultism by working as a taxi driver. However, when his grandmother falls critically ill, Shina’s desperate quest to secure the funds for her medical treatment leads him down a dangerous path and forces him to confront the dark underbelly of the criminal world. He then has to make the difficult choices that will either redeem him or drag him further down the abyss.

“Shina” Review: A Promising Story Undermined by Narrative Shortcomings | Afrocritik

From this synopsis, one would expect a crime-thriller, especially as the film was marketed as one. However, as Shina unfolds, it unexpectedly shifts gears, incorporating elements of social commentary, advocacy, and political drama, ultimately blurring the lines of its genre. This potentially leaves the audience puzzled about its core focus, as it delves deeper into exploring pressing social issues and advocating for change, rather than solely delivering a thrilling crime narrative. For instance, Shina’s run-in with the policemen on the road represents the realities of the average Nigerian with the corrupt and oppressive law enforcement agents, highlighting the systemic injustices and harassment that ordinary citizens face daily. This is a recurring theme here, and it is used to illustrate the need for reform and societal change. Also, the hospital scenes where the roof leaks, the power goes off, and Dr Bakare (Segun Arinze) refuses to treat Shina’s grandmother without any deposit represent the underfunded and dysfunctional healthcare system, where patients are often at the mercy of overburdened and under-resourced medical professionals, and are forced to navigate bureaucratic red tape and corrupt practices to receive even the most basic care. This highlights the urgent need for systemic reform and improvement.

As if the societal commentary on corruption and healthcare weren’t enough, Shina also weaves in political undertones throughout its narrative, set against the backdrop of a tense election season. Through this setting, it delivers a strong message about the importance of civic engagement and the potential for change through the democratic process. 

While these themes and messages in themselves are good, the film’s attempt to tackle too many issues at once results in a narrative that feels overstuffed and lacking in focus, making it difficult for the audience to fully absorb and engage with any one of the important themes. This ultimately dilutes its overall impact and the potential for meaningful resonance. 

Shina still scaled
Stills from Shina

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The convoluted nature of the themes is exacerbated by the various loose threads in the plot, such as the underdeveloped backstory of Shina’s past struggles with addiction. Despite his apparent vulnerability to relapse, we are not provided with a sufficient understanding of what drove him to quit drinking in the first place, or what triggers his inner conflict when tempted to drink again. This lack of context makes it difficult to fully appreciate the depth of his emotional turmoil, and diminishes the impact of his ultimate decision to resist the temptation.  We cannot help but feel disconnected from his journey.

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Considering that the film’s script was reportedly in development for over a year, one would expect that such mistakes would be avoided. Instead, the narrative shortcomings suggest a rushed or incomplete writing process, failing to deliver a coherent and engaging story that effectively explores the complex themes and characters. Speaking of characters, the underwhelming impact is further compounded by the lack of standout performances, with some characters struggling to resonate due to poorly written dialogue that feels forced, unnatural, and devoid of emotional depth, preventing the actors from fully bringing their characters to life. For instance, Mr Bankole (Akin Lewis) and Ayo (Shawn Faqua) struggle to make an impact, due to their characters’ poorly written dialogue, which fails to convey the necessary menace of crime bosses, despite their efforts to compensate with body language. Similarly, Linda Ejiofor Suleiman‘s performance as Dr Asinobi falls flat, except for a poignant moment when she receives news of her fiancé’s death, which manages to evoke a genuine emotional response. On a positive note, Egbuson gives a measured performance as Shina and brings a sense of vulnerability and authenticity to his character, making him relatable and believable. His portrayal of Shina’s struggles and emotions is convincing, and he manages to convey the character’s depth and complexity, even when the script falls short. 

The failure to deliver on its promising themes raises questions about the creative process behind Shina. Despite its timely and thought-provoking subject matter, the poor execution and lack of attention to detail in the script ultimately undermine the film’s impact, leaving the audience underwhelmed. This leads one to wonder if the co-direction might have contributed to the plot’s lack of focus and cohesion, suggesting that perhaps a single, unified vision might have been more effective in bringing this important story to life.

Rating: 1.9/5

Shina is currently streaming on Netflix

Joseph Jonathan is a historian who seeks to understand how film shapes our cultural identity as a people. He believes that history is more about the future than the past. When he’s not writing about film, you can catch him listening to music or discussing politics. He tweets @JosieJp3.

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