‘Eyimofe (This Is My Desire)’ Review: Always Bustle

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The Nigerian movie “Eyimofe” is about many different things – immigration, exploitation, misogyny – but mainly about money. Following the lives of two people in Lagos, who both dream of emigrating to Europe to improve their hopes, the film follows a network of Nigerian naira (necessary currency for hospital bills, housing bills, lawyer bills, endless bills) that traps the characters. The more they try to escape, the deeper they pull them in. They are at the mercy of a city where every interaction is a transaction and the myths of boot capitalism are dying out.

Directing the first of the film’s two halves, Mofe (Jude Akuwudike) lives with his sister and nephews in a cramped slum and works as a mechanic in a dangerously dilapidated repair shop to save enough money to immigrate to Spain. The focus of the second part of the movie is Rosa (Temi Ami-Williams), who lives in the same neighborhood as her pregnant teenage sister. Rosa works two jobs, but has to deal with unpleasant characters, including a ferocious businesswoman and a caring landlord, in order to pay her bills and obtain a visa to Italy.

Both Mofe and Rosa are struck by sad personal tragedies that can take over the narrative in a different movie – and with different actors. However, both characters continue to act with the stoicism of someone for whom difficulty is the norm. Also, there really isn’t any time mourning: With death involving a complex bureaucracy and high prices, the bills keep piling up. Rosa sees a glimmer of hope when an American immigrant starts dating her, but is soon forced to succumb to the stereotype her wealthy, condescending friends hold about her: the gold digger. Survival and manipulation blur when one is very helpless, leaving little room for something as intimate as desire.

With aerial shots of Lagos’ bustling marketplaces and a solid design suited to the city’s chatter, directors Arie and Chuko Esiri evocatively capture an environment where everyone, rich or poor, is always rushing and bargaining. Cinematographer Arseni Khachaturan shoots a warm, grainy 16-millimeter film that highlights not only the vibrant colors of Lagos but also its textures. The heat, dust, and crumbling facades of Mofe and Rosa’s world contrast with the rare air and glossy surfaces of the spaces where Rosa’s boyfriend takes her on dates. The portrait of life that emerges organically from this understated, observant approach makes “Eyimofe” a rare social realist drama that conveys criticism without didactic and empathy without pity.

Eymofe (This Is My Desire)
Not rated. Subtitled Nigerian English. Duration: 1 hour 56 minutes. In movie theaters.

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