Let me start by saying that Kunle Afolayan’s Swallow is not for the impatient.
If your movie preference is for a fast-paced, action-packed or rib-cracking drama, then Swallow will disappoint you. If you however prefer slow-moving, moral stories, then you will feel right at home with the new Kunle Afolayan Netflix Original.
To understand why Swallow does not fit into the mould of the unusual and gripping stories Kunle Afolayan is known for you would have to read the book it’s adapted from. You might then find yourself asking after reading the book why Afolayan chose that story? The veteran filmmaker is in the best position to answer this question. But I will share my thoughts about the Netflix original movie in the ensuing paragraphs.
Based in ‘80s Nigeria, Swallow follows the story of Rose and Tolani, two young women who worked as secretaries in the same bank and also lived together. But that is where the similarities end. While Tolani (played by Niyola) is level-headed and reserved, Rose (Ijeoma Grace Agu) is a bubbly, in-your-face and no-nonsense person. While Tolani was more concerned about getting her 3-year-old boyfriend to commit to her in marriage, Rose was looking for the next man that would spend on her and a way out of the poverty that had haunted her since childhood. Rose losing her job at the bank did not help matters and it ultimately compounded her desperation. As fate would have it, Rose got her rich man, but it came at the ultimate price. Tolani almost fell into the same hole but for a last-minute change of mind.
That’s as much as I would share about the story itself. Now to how I felt watching it.
To say Swallow was a drag would be an understatement. One question that kept ringing in my head as I watched the movie was, “Where is the climax? Where is this story going to?” You will need to have lots of patience to watch Swallow because it takes over one hour into the movie for a specific theme to emerge. The story went well from there, thankfully.
A clip from Swallow
In terms of Swallow’s casting, Afolayan did well. Segun Remi was brilliant as Mr Salako, the perverse and odious boss; Ijeoma Grace Agu saved the day with her spitfire pidgin and acting; Niyola was also perfect as Tolani, with her boring, retiring character. Mrs Durojaiye (Eniola Badmus), O.C (Kelvin Ikeduba) and Sanwo (Deyemi Okanlawon) were also great cast choices.
What makes Swallow unique, however, is how Kunle Afolayan recreated the ‘80s complete with its 20 naira notes, its afro hairstyles and nightclubs, its bolekajas and audio stereo sets, its Fela posters, shoulder-padded jackets, kerosene lanterns and more. Trying to include real-life events with the football tournament was also a nice touch, though it was a little jarring at first.
As with any filmmaker wanting to adapt a book to a movie, Afolayan faced the battle of which parts of the original story should be retained and which should be jettisoned. In resolving that conflict, he did well in removing the back story of Tolani’s parents, but he addressed almost all other themes in passing. He also added a few twists to the original story. Overall, I will say Afolayan did as much as he could with the story he had.
Have you seen the movie? What do you think about it?
Reviewed by Oriyomi Adebare-Anthony