City to City

Just Not Married

Uduak-Obong Patrick

Justnotmarried 01

In this charming caper comedy, a bright but broke undergrad striving to escape the slums gets in over his head when his modest criminal enterprise goes a bit too far.

Why do we love thieves in movies so much? Is it the vicarious thrill? The Robin Hood factor? Is it because they do bad things for good reasons? Just Not Married delivers all the fun of a classic crime comedy, but also hides a sharp-witted critique of urban poverty within the glossy sheath of its caper plot.

Duke (Stan Nze), a promising undergraduate student, is broke. It's a crippling problem, as he must provide for his critically ill mother and his ex-con brother. With the help of his best friend, Lati (Rotimi Salami), and his sassy crush, Keji (the film's producer, Judith Audu), he hatches a genius plan to steal cars: after Lati breaks into a vehicle, they dress it up with ribbons and bows to resemble a honeymoon vehicle. But the success of their scheme sends Duke into a spiral of guilt, and he stops attending school even though he knows it's his only means of escaping the slums. When their modest criminal enterprise goes a bit too far, the three friends realize that they're in over their heads.

Making his feature debut, Patrick merges commercial Nollywood style with the feel of an American indie. All three leads are charmers, and the film allows room for loose, natural conversations. (At one point, Lati criticizes Duke's scheme: Duke may face challenges, but he's smart enough to move up the economic ladder through education; why would he squander that? Because people are complicated.)

Just Not Married captures its characters' youthful impulsiveness with lovely, shallow-focus cinematography, and the combination of criminal hijinks and honest moral inquiry proves irresistible. Make sure you stay for the final credit sequence, which is the best reminder you can have of the pure, exuberant joy of making a movie. This is what cinema is all about.

CAMERON BAILEY

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