In “Potato Potahto,” Shirley Frimpong-Manso puts a hilarious twist on divorce; a serious topic often accompanied by stigmatization shrouded in religion and culture.
Divorce is a tricky topic in Africa, often accompanied by a never-ending stigma and shrouded in religion and culture.
Couples who divorce are often made to feel a sense of shame and failure; their plight even become a subject of public conversations and ridicule.
An African parent is likely to panic once their child mentions ‘divorce,’ forcing couples to avert divorce for as long as they can. There’s also the bad blood that tends to follow an ugly divorce.
A feel-good dramedy, “Potato Potahto” tells the story of a couple, Tony and Lulu, who for personal reasons, decide to still live in their matrimonial home even after they split up.
They split the compound and house into two to avoid running into each other. Things take a different turn after Tony brings in an attractive female house help. To get back at him, his ex-wife Lulu hires a hunky young man to help her out.
Thus begins an overlong but often delightful journey during which the couple try to figure out their feelings for each other.
Viewers get to see how different they are as individuals, the impact of their personalities on their relationship, and how deeply they love each other still.
Lulu is a perfectionist, who is most likely to get the audience riled up with her antics – she calls out her husband for “little” things such as kissing her without brushing, splattering water on the bathroom mirror, or forgetting to change the bulbs.
Tony is the easy-going husband, who speaks a different love language from his wife. He will probably have the understanding of the viewers.
These two, despite how much they care about each other, differ in the ways which they want to love and be loved.
To bring the “Potato Potahto” story to life Joselyn Dumas plays Lulu, OC Ukeje plays Tony, Joke Silva plays Mrs Wilson, Chris Attoh plays Gabby, Nikky Samonas as Mirian, Kemi Lala Akindoju as Frances and Blossom Chukwujekwu plays Fred.
The most surprising casting choice is Chris Attoh as Lulu’s hired help who poses a threat to the couple’s hope of reconciliation.
Attoh is fun in a half-witted mode; a role different from anything he has ever been in.
Dumas is utterly convincing as the somewhat annoying “perfectionist.” Also, her screen presence, aided by a striking physical beauty and charming wardrobe, makes her character endearing.
Ukeje is believable as the meek husband willing to fight for his wife. Akindoju is great as Frances, the supporting friend and colleague of Lulu.
The banter between Ukeje and Chukwujekwu as best friends makes them a convincingly good fit. Despite this, as Fred, the latter doesn’t have a direct emotional impact on the audience.
However, the events in his private life affect Lulu and Tony, offering the couple an opportunity to share a reflective and intimate moment. As also in “Love or Something like That,” Dumas and Ukeje create enough chemistry to carry their sex scene through.
Some charming moments come courtesy of the relationship between Mrs Wilson and her son-in-law, Tony, steering away from the overused stereotype of a grumpy mother-in-law.
As Mrs Wilson, Silva handles the role with good humour and grace. While Silva and Dumas bubble along in an enjoyable way that makes the mother-daughter relationship credible, it’s her moments with Ukeje that deliver the subtle comic tease.
The choice of songs in “Potato Potahto” offers viewers an experience outside the film, using a number of unfamiliar but pleasant songs such as OC Ukeje’s debut track.
With “Potato Potahto,” director and screenwriter Frimpong Manso shows a keen understanding of the little things that are capable of separating two people in love.
She zooms in on how couples approach relationships/marriage from different perspectives whilst having the same intention – thus the movie title “Potato Potahto.”
“Potato Potahto” is a tad long with an unhurried pace that might be a huge problem for viewers with a short attention span.
Nevertheless, thanks to an alluring cinematography and production design, “Potato Potahto” remains glossy and classy to watch, transporting the audience to the beautiful scenery of Accra.
For a movie with a modest emphasis on dialogue, each image successfully carries with it the amplified emotional state of the characters, letting viewers in on their thoughts and impulses.
And when “Potato Potahto” becomes leaden and the laughs are missing, the charismatic cast and music offset its flaws.
Avoiding a number of slapstick dialogue and cliches, Shirley Frimpong-Manso’s “Potato Potahto” ends on a sweet and hopeful note.
The movie opens in cinemas on November 24, 2017.