I decided to give Strain a chance on Thursday, mainly because I had read a review of it about a week ago. Prior to Thursday, I had seen the movie banner on the Netflix homepage every day for the last six days but couldn’t bring myself to watch the film because of that horrid grey beard Okey Uzoeshi had on his face. I had a change of heart after realizing this would be a great review for today. This is my movie review of Uduak-Obong Patrick’s Strain.
The movie follows the story of this regular middle class family, the Ezeji’s, who find out their youngest son, Ekene, is riddled with the sickle cell disease. After his first episode, the family soon realize he had been exhibiting symptoms for a while but were often overlooked. Their world as they knew it had turned upside down as Ekene’s condition began to strain (no pun intended) the bond that held them together as a family.
I think what makes this film interesting to watch is not the fact it simply brings awareness to sickle cell by having a character suffer through the film, but the fact it explores the extent to which sickle cell affects family dynamics. It also presented the toll sickle cell could have on a family in an interestingly honest way. It didn’t present family members as sanctimonious and all sacrificial because in reality, are humans really that way? Especially family?
Ekene (Nifemi Lawal) and his older sister Ebere (Angel Unigwe), had the regular brother-sister bond. Constant bickering laced with light-hearted insults, soon followed by laughing over funny videos on YouTube. However, we easily forget that siblings have individual lives they live. As a young teenager, Ebere’s life was ruled by the intense drama high school came with. She had boy troubles that frustrated her. Ekene’s condition began to feel like a burden to her and to an extent I could understand her frustration. Having to look over someone constantly isn’t a responsibility and child wants to assume, talk-less of a young teen navigating her way through her high-school life.
In many Nollywood films, children usually play two dimensional characters. Characters without depth, substance or personal growth. With the lead characters being children, the writers had no choice but to give them enough depth for the audience to connect with. Nifemi Lawal and Angel Unigwe both gave stellar performances that brought these characters to life.
Another aspect of the film I found rather fascinating was the dynamics between the parents. In Nollywood films, it’s safe to say that mothers are portrayed as naturally caring, while fathers are sometimes buried with work and more or less absent in their kid’s life. It was the opposite in this film. Yemi Ezeji (Shushu Abubakar),the matriarch and breadwinner of the family, often found her work life overshadowing her personal life. As expected, it led to subject of quarrels between herself and husband, Nnamdi (Okey Uzoeshi). It was clear both parents had personal issues that needed to be sorted, and instead of Ekene’s health issue to be a unifying force to put away all differences, it was the very thing that brought out the worst in them.
Overall, Strain was an okay movie. It honestly was not a great movie, but it passed across a particularly interesting message by giving a more sincere perspective on how sickle cell affects families and not just individuals.