Coming out of the screening of Afua’s Diary the word I heard filtering through the audience was “terrible”. That was not far from the truth but a bit harsh especially when you weigh expectations against this compact end product helmed by a debut director (Ben Owusu) with a slew of first-time performers. This romance narrative tells the story of Afua (or Ahfua) played by Cleopatra Wood who is grinding things out in a cheesy travel company in the UK that has her do stuff like dress up in a bunny costume because Easter is presumably around the corner. She has an MBA in marketing and you would think she would find better employment in the motherland but the UK has become her home – has been for ten years.
Life is by no means smooth for Afua but it would be smoother save for a few things. First there is the issue of her alcoholic dad (Kwaku Sintim Misa) back in Ghana who is bugging her for money daily and trying to con her with amusing but silly efforts as the film progresses. We then learn her student visa is about to expire and she faces the prospect of deportation despite having been a UK resident for ten years. She has an unemployed bum of boyfriend waiting for her at home who does nothing but whinge and nag. All these headaches are well conveyed especially with the bizarre number of phone calls as people try to reach into her life for attention. Afua’s phone rings an insane amount of times serving as the calling card for gloom and irritating conversations.
There is a bit of a silver lining for her in the bleak British clouds when she meets and falls for Alan Freeman (Fabio Abraham). Alan himself is struggling with a straining divorce on both the business and marital spectrum but Afua comes into his life and things become rosy for both parties for a minute until her visa issues degenerate to the point where Afua has basically three options – go back to Ghana or live in the UK illegally or arrange a marriage of convenience. I should point out that Alan’s previous marriage was anchored on the deceit of a woman who just wanted to firm up her EU residence. Awkward position for Afua to be in. Indeed a number of preposterous contrivances conspire to put Afua in awkward situations.
This film is so light hearted it would be disingenuous to dig at it for not sinking its teeth into the hustle of our diaspora brethren. It displays some awareness of the immigrant’s hustle and fears but isn’t ambitious or intelligent enough to properly flesh out this nuts and bolts romance narrative. Why doesn’t she want to go home I ask? The bland narrative is complemented by bland performances that I struggled to get into. The stunning Cleopatra Wood comes from a modelling background and watching her feels too much like she’s walking the runway and Fabio Abraham seems to be suppressing his Italian accent except when angry. The unnatural performances of the core duo keep the film from being as engaging as it could be despite the serviceable and sparingly witty screenplay.
I will call out grossly lackadaisical approach to detail displayed in the direction and post work. The ADR is off sync and there are too many slow fade-outs between scenes hampering the fluidity of the film along with the short televisual scenes. The editing was extremely poor distorting the space and time with a number glaring glitches apparent to audiences which the director should have caught or worse even, saw but ignored. Afua’s diary isn’t the worst film ever but isn’t recommendable either. Looking past the technical shortcomings there is very little to hold on to and endear us by way of character or story. There is some good humour though, that could count for something.
By: Delali Adogla-Bessafirstname.lastname@example.org/Ghana