More than half of the cinema are on their feet, hollering at the screen and clapping: the on-screen bride has refused to say, ‘I do’ to the groom, shocking her family, friends and almost in-laws. The bride was on the verge of marrying her abusive fiancé. Right up to the last minute, her parents supported the marriage and conveniently overlooked the physical violence and heartaches their daughter suffered through.
Only the bride’s elder sister, Bisola Gomez, played by Mercy Johnson, finds her voice at that moment, delivering a snarky comment to the bewildered groom. Her comments are bolstered by that of her jocular assistant, played by Toyin Abraham which elicits a thunderous laughter across the cinema.
But this isn’t the main storyline of the film Seven and a Half Dates directed by Biodun Stephens. This is the main storyline: Bisola Gomez is a workaholic whose parents and society are worried about her ovaries expiration and social life. Thus, her father steps in to save her from eternal loneliness and singlehood by setting up ten blind dates for her with his friend’s eligible children. To Mr. Gomez, chess is a metaphorical representation of her daughter’s romantic life: one bad date, one pawn down.
Bisola goes on a date with the internet troll, the misogynist, the self-absorbed talkative, the pastor’s child, the latecomer, the man with the bad breath and on her seventh date she meets a random stranger who she will later fall in love with.
But if this perpetual-workaholic-spinster storyline sounds familiar, that is because it is. Perhaps the most overused idea in Nollywood is that of a woman who must find a groom at all cost just to satisfy family and save them from public embarrassment. Although Seven and a Half Dates plies this treacherously overused grounds, it somehow finds redemption with an emotive side story about domestic violence and fleeting comic scenes.
But the beauty of the film is in its brevity; how scenes are neither overplayed or the actors effusive. A parade of notable faces come and go throughout the film, and each actor delivers a good, at times hilarious, performance before fading away, leaving the audience with a good memory of them.
Toyin Abraham and Frank Donga’s scene is perhaps the film’s most memorable and hilarious while a scene featuring a visit to Tiannah’s Place Empire in Lekki is terrible in execution that one begins to wonder its usefulness to the film, except it being a promotion of sorts for the store.
In the lead role, Mercy Johnson holds her own. Still, her performance isn’t stellar or particularly memorable. On the other hand, viewers could have been spared the excruciating agony of watching Jim Iyke on screen. Iyke, who plays the role of Johnson’s love interest, is anything but entertaining or deserving of screen time.
Produced by Toyin Abraham, Seven and a Half Dates isn’t among the greatest contemporary Nollywood flicks out there but it is one that still deserves recognition for being far better than tens of other Nollywood films that have graced our cinema screens in the past year. And while it would not leave you with a deep appreciation for the arts, the film is still entertaining and the comedy effortless.
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