Dir/scr: Chika Anadu. Nigeria, 2013. 114mins
A straightforward drama set amongst Nigeria’s comfortable middle classes, B For Boy dramatises the plight of even the most privileged women in a traditional society desperate for male heirs. The story’s Lagos milieu is an unusual setting, and the clearly loving husband-wife relationship at its core gives B For Boy a special resonance.
Director-writer-producer Chika Anadu seemingly plots the first half of B For Boy in order for it to pay off in the second, but fails to strike the right balance.
That being said, however, B For Boy is a no-frills, plot-laden drama which should perform best in selected, mostly socio-cultural, programming strands and events but will find the jump to art-house tricky despite some strong performances, particularly Nwadili in the lead.
She plays Amako, loving wife to Nonso (Odogwu) and already mother of a six-year-old girl. Amako is also a professional woman in her own right, heading up her own business. Amako and Nonso employ servants, live a comfortable life, and are sexually attracted to each other.
Approaching her 40th birthday as B For Boy commences, Amako is happily pregnant and, along with Nonso, refuses to get an ultrasound to discover whether she is carrying their longed-for son – or another girl.
When Nonso’s mother arrives from the country with her pastor to pray for a boy, and it’s clear she will stop at nothing to get a male heir. And after Nonso’s younger brother suddenly dies, the pressure only intensifies. Amako caves in and goes for a secret ultrasound, happily discovering she is carrying a boy. Shortly afterwards, she loses the baby, however, even as Nonso’s mother is already arranging for a second wife to take her place.
B For Boy is laden with exposition; the first half-hour is burdened with a schematic weight as characters are introduced and situations are rapidly set up and portentously signposted –for example, Amako’s doctor suddenly deciding to give her a pregnancy “empathy belly” for Nonso to try out.
Director-writer-producer Chika Anadu seemingly plots the first half of B For Boy in order for it to pay off in the second, but fails to strike the right balance. Certainly, the relationship between Nonso and his wife and mother is intriguing, nicely-executed and well acted. But a sidebar involving a surrogacy and a young mother just adds more soap to the mix, giving B For Boy a confused tone – is this a TV drama or a more nuanced examination?
Technical credits are adequate for the bare-bones scale of the film, with Anadu going light on score (some soft piano) and heavy on interiors. B For Boy was assisted by the Cannes Residence programme.
Production company: No Blondes Productions
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Producer: Chika Anadu
Co-producer: Arie Esiri
Executive producer: Ijeoma Jatta
Cinematography: Monika Lenczewska
Editor: Simon Brasse
Prod designer: Anthony Prince Tomety
Music: Ennis Rotthoff
Main cast: Uche Nwadili, Nonso Odogwu, Ngozi Amarikwa