Walking with Shadows has all the emotional set pieces that are expected from a film about a gay man who ends up married to appease the religious expectations of his family. With little to offer in the way of surprises the story plods towards a predictable destination whilst managing to under deliver against the dramatic opportunities along the way.
Adapted from Jude Dibia’s 2005 novel by Aoife O’Kelly it it is set in Lagos Nigeria. Adrian (Ozzy Agu) is recently promoted and has a beautiful wife and daughter. His apparently idea life begins to fall apart after he gets a poisonous call from a blackmailer and his wife, family and coworkers learn that he is gay.
There then follows a succession of scenes that were obviously selected with the belief that they had the most potential for dramatic punch. His wife Ada (Zainab Balogun) tearfully demands to know the truth. His brothers corner him and condemn him for ‘the ultimate sin’. An opportunistic co-worker accuses him of propositioning him. His wife takes /their daughter to the doctor for the results of an HIV test. A pastor berates him for letting the devil in and violently exorcises him. His mother demands to know why he is refusing to be normal and bringing shame on his family.
The problem is that each scene is inadequately set up. Little is learnt about the support characters personalities and motivations before they are thrust into the middle of the action. As such they end up being conveniences of the script rather than true characters in themselves. Whilst this approach successfully communicates the injustice shoveled on Adrian it does little to make a deep or satisfying experience for the audience.
The performance of Ozzy Agu has a teary-eyed vulnerability that manages to keep a sympathetic thread going through the storyline. HIs wife, actress Zainab Balogun, also has a dignity that manages to establish both her and Adrian as victims. But the single note coming from the unestablished characters around them left them struggling to turn key scenes into emotional crescendos. A monotonous musical score also tended to drag each scene down towards a flat common denominator.
Walking with Shadows had a potential that was short changed by the selective choices. Overly focusing on the edited dramatic highlights lost a lot of the supportive elements of character and context that would have made them more meaningful and touching.
Review by Andrew Hebden
Queerguru Correspondent Andrew Hebden is a MEDIA & CULTURAL STUDIES graduate spending his career between London, Beijing and NYC as an expert in media and social trends. As part of the expanding minimalist FIRE movement he recently returned to the UK and lives in Soho. He devotes as much time as possible to the movies, theatre and the gym. His favorite thing is to try something (anything) new every day.