I have been a follower of Taiwo Egunjobi's works since 2019, and I have always enjoyed watching what he puts out. His best work, ‘In Ibadan,’ remains my favorite, and while I wanted 'All Na Vibes' to take that spot, it rather cemented the fact that a filmmaker cannot always get it right – and that's okay.
'All Na Vibes': Taiwo Egunjobi's young-adult drama frustrates more than it excites [Pulse Review]
Imagine watching Giuseppe Tornatore's 'Cinema Paradiso' without a feel for the world of the story.
According to Egunjobi, the movie attempts a neorealist narrative, also known as Italian neorealismo, which was a national cinematic movement distinguished by stories centred on the underprivileged and working class. They are shot on location, usually using amateur performers, and they depict shifts in the human mind as well as conditions found in daily life, such as poverty, oppression, injustice, and desperation.
Following this concept, 'All Na Vibes' told in two parts, recounts the lives of three young people named Lamidi (Molawa Davies), Abiola (Tega Ethan), and Sade (Tolu Osaile). Lamidi, who despises his name and would rather be called Lamborghini or Lambo, enlists the assistance of his close friend Abiola to throw a party. However, things go wrong when Sade, the daughter of a wealthy politician, disappears after the party.
While Egunjobi's movie tries to define the above-named concept (neorealism) very well, it also proves that understanding a concept or theory is not the only tool for sublime storytelling.
What the movie fails to establish, which does an overall disservice to the entire offering, is what or whose story it's trying to tell. Is this a story about the system and those who drive it, or a story about the effect of the system on the youth? Ideally, the movie attempts to touch on both but fails to excel at either.
The film’s brief running time doesn't give it enough time to fully develop its ideas, and too much time is spent on scenes that aren't really necessary to advance the plot.
As a viewer, you're almost compelled to want to move the film forward at some point, desperate for the juicy part and what it has to offer because the first part is lacking.
While the movie tries to kick off and offer something entertaining in the second part, which starts after the party, you are not settled in for the ride, but rather you are at the edge of your seats, questioning the storyteller's every choice, as nothing has prepared you for the sudden tonal shift in the movie, so rather than enjoy, you question. If done well, the first part should have answered all the questions.
The movie lingers on the wrong moments for so long that it drags on. There is a sense of realism that it aims to achieve, but the execution betrays the overall output, as it ends up being a situation where you commend the effort rather than the output.
None of Lamidi's actions has any justification to settle the audience on why he must have taken the steps he took in the film. There's a desperate attempt at correcting this when Lamidi screams "I blame the government" towards the end of the film, but rather than understand him and even sympathise with him, we sneer at how cheesy that attempt is.
'All Na Vibes' struggles to give an interesting sequence of dialogue to help drive home the existential crisis looming over the heads of the lead characters, and when it attempts to be "deep," it is at the wrong moments or from the wrong character. Even the actor's stellar performance can't save the jokes, which are generally unfunny, lazy, cliche, and stereotypical.
Neorealist movies work when the storyworld is compelling and you feel the sense of doom hanging over the character's head—their plagues, what they are trying to avoid, and the like—so when they make their decisions, even the bad ones, you feel for them and feel them. Unfortunately, 'All Na Vibes' doesn't convincingly deliver any storyworld visually; rather, all that we know about the world is through verbal communication, and this takes away the potency of the narrative.
The movie's ending is abrupt and is reminiscent of Bolanle Austen-Peters' 'Collision Course' and how it attempted to forcefully immerse the audience into the purgatory of catharsis, but it failed.
A story builds up to the tipping point, and in most cases, when it builds well, the tipping point results in an explosion, not a crashing down. In the case of this movie, the ending, rather than rescuing the film, flattens any ray of hope it has, leaving the viewer frustrated.
While the storytelling does a great disservice to the film, there are some commendable things:
The themes that the movie attempts to highlight are bold and engaging. Many stories out there have touched on stories about a dysfunctional Nigeria, but 'All Na Vibes' tells it from the perspective of how it affects the youth and the causal effects.
The music is refreshing and serves as the only thing that moves the audience close to the purgation of catharsis. It does well to set the mood in many scenes and has much more depth than much of the dialogue.
Although the cinematography could have been much better, it aids the overarching concept of the film and the small, intimate feel it tries to achieve. It doesn’t overly distract from the storytelling; rather, it complements it effectively.
To summarise, 'All Na Vibes' is an average film. It has its moments but won't leave you excited or even superbly entertained as it has nothing you haven't seen before.
Critic’s rating: 4/10
Molawa Davies and Tega Etha have a strong chemistry.
Nice voice, Dapo. Tobi Marho, is that you?
What was that policeman character?
We know its low-budget, but that interrogation scene set-up is a joke.
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