Fiifi Coleman’s directorial debut, Pieces of Me, continues the low-key notable trend of female driven narratives in Ghanaian cinema. Written by, Awo Ahiable, maybe it was just common sense for her to stick to characters she could understand and identify with in this film that is pushed forward by a degree vindictiveness. Audience’s reception to this film may hinge on the denouement payoff as this film navigates business politics, familial separation and – well – pettiness on the part of our central characters.
We are introduced to Sally Mensah (Akofa Edjeani). She is on the threshold of rock bottom. She has already lost her family and her company is about to follow. She walks through a cemetery to her father’s tombstone early on and tries to draw strength from him as she steps up to save her life’s work, it’s all she has left. This speaks to how lonely Sally is and you get the sense she played some part in her isolation but the prime mastermind of her downfall here is the devious Leratto, played by Napo Masheane.
Their rivalry initially appears grounded in the fact Leratto has her claws in Sally’s family. Sally’s Ex, Edem (Adjetey Annan), is married to her and we can tell she isn’t bothered from a flash back seeing as their marriage ended with the exclamation point of infidelity but it’s her two kids she has concern for. They have started to call Leratto “mum” and that breaks her spirit. On the company side of things, affairs hang in the balance – the numbers aren’t looking good and a buyout/merger will be needed to keep them afloat. Leratto makes moves to acquire Sally’s business (out of spite of course) and keep the organisation from going under but Sally stands resolute and wants no part of this merger one of her weasely employees, Kwame (Abeiku Kwansah), incessantly tries to broker.
The question of motives and stakes come up as our director slowly pieces together this narrative pitting these two women against each other and when resolution does come via what some may call a contrivance or a needless deus ex machina, a feeling of dissatisfaction lingers. There is a deliberate ambiguity shrouding the link between Sally and Lerrato as the film winks at audiences, even teases, rolling on with full awareness of the opacity of Leratto’s drive. I wondered why this character was on such a tear but the unexplained motivations never really began to bother and you could argue this film would have come of stronger with an absence of tangible resolution on our primary antagonist’s part.
Leratto interestingly has a couple of men on her string as she tries her best to hurt Sally and she doesn’t hesitate to rip them new ones when things do not go her way. Indeed Ahiable revels in the female authority figures she creates and even more so in the fact they really tear into the men in their lives. Sally has no time for Kwame’s antics and puts him in his lowly place when the need arises. Leratto only carries around the emasculated Edem, brunt of venomous blasts, to scorn Sally. She feels nothing for him. The film, however, never gives us a scene in that Pacino-De Niro mould a la Heat that properly establishes Edjeani and Masheane as equals and hell, just allows them to chew some scenery. I would have appreciated the slickness of such a move.
I reckon this film hinges on the performances with Edjeani who is nuanced and assured as this resilient CEO who has the odd breakdown and fit of paranoia and Coleman spends a chunk of this film with her, maybe too much time because on the other hand we have Masheane as this ornate fiend who is straight off playing a wicked witch on the set of an African themed Disney film. Masheane is truly game for this role and churns an entertainingly patent performance that slowly becomes a portrait of wanton pettiness.
She snaps with an elegant feisty intensity and almost appears to morph into a viper on close ups with her slit eyes and poisonous lips and she is only literal-venom-shooting out of her mouth away from completing the transformation. She brings a refreshingly darkly comic tone to this film and Coleman may have done well put more of his eggs in her basket aligning this film to her character instead of the straight up drama it wants to be when Edjeani takes center stage as Sally.
Coleman’s direction is quite functional and he never allows us to mistake his characters from the chirpy reliable Ahiable as Dela or the punching bag that was Annan’s Edem and his cast puts in a solid shift. There is the nice touch of loading the film with short takes in line with the puzzle motif.
A punt on a nonlinear narrative structure along with some more inventive direction could have made for a more intelligent and detailed story. Plot holes and contrivances sour the experience and the characters are not as fleshed out as desired but Pieces of Me still comes off as a solid if unspectacular compact debut for this first time director.