The concept of spirit husbands or wives is not something thats entirely new to the African/Nigerian demographic.
People who were active fans of the Nollywood industry in the 90s and the early 2000s or even watched the popular Mount Zion movies like Captives of the Mighty are definitely no strangers to this theme. Alternatively, if you spend your time watching Christian TV shows on cable TV today or have your ears to the ground on mysterious things happening around, you may have seen or heard at least an occurence of something like this.
And yet, for a concept, pretty existent in the African space, it hasn’t been tackled as much in new Nollywood since the 2017 movie ‘Dibia’ directed by Muyiwa Aluko. The three minute trailer for Sylvia, released in May, does a great job of wetting your appetite as it takes you through the fun and thrilling shots from the movie and also kind of gives you the premise of the film. You already know, from the trailer, that’s there’s a lot of relationship between two different realms.
The film, which is Trino Studios' first feature film is a supernatural thriller with the existent themes of obsession, romance, love and betrayal. It explores the cause and effect nature of relationships, mental health and the real versus the surreal world.
Written by Vanessa Kanu, who describes the movie as an exploration of consciousness, and directed by Daniel Oriahi, the story is centered around Richard Okezie (Chris Attoh), who exists both in the real world and the fantasy world: home to his friend and lover, Sylvia (Zainab Balogun).
They go on from childhood until Richard is a man and then, he decides to leave Sylvia for a 'real woman', Gbemi (Ini Dima Okojie) and both worlds couldn’t hold what happened afterwards.
There's a lot to like about Sylvia really: for one, there's this fresh feel to an existing story on spirituality, something that is pretty common in our world today. Asides this, the acting is actually above average most of the time. Zainab Balogun does a great job playing Sylvia, and bringing the whole elements of psycho to her role.
Chris Attoh is also brilliant as well, and so is Udoka Onyeka who plays Richard’s close friend, Obaro. Ini Dima Okojie has her moments as well and delivers a great job as the cheerful Gbemi Okezie. There’s also the music composed by award-winning film composer and sound engineer, Michael 'Truth' Ogunlade which sets the tune throughout the movie, and undoubtedly is one of the best things about the film.
However, there are a couple of gap holes that would probably leave you thinking for a while when you see the movie. For one, there's the link between both worlds that gets a loose and not so well thought of explanation somewhere in the movie, if you ask me. Also, considering that the other realm is an entirely new subject to a lot of us, the concept of aging poses a huge problem to me and I'm guessing a lot of people would agree.
Sylvia starts off as a child, as seen as she lays on carpet grass and grows up eventually. She also manages to stay as a young adult over time and this leaves you asking about the characteristics of things in the other realm. In the director’s defence however, you could say it’s an imaginary thing. So as Richard grows in reality, he imagines that Sylvia is growing too in his head.
Apart from this, the first few minutes of the 104 minutes thriller is slow and one may be immersed in other things at the time. However, It makes up for all of this with the drama and action in subsequent scenes. Given that spirit husband or wives is a well-explored theme in old-era Nollywood, Sylvia is a modern update, but it’s too hackneyed to leave a lasting impression.
Sylvia is out in cinemas from September 21st.
Written by Franklin Ugobude
Frank Ugobude is a social media manager at Pulse.ng