What makes The Man of God so special? It’s the tale of the prodigal son repackaged for a modern audience.
Why, then, is it receiving so much backlash from members of the public? That’s because it takes a wide variety of relevant subject matters that bother the lines of religiosity, youthfulness, and truly living as your own person in a time like this, and squanders it on the sensational altar of cliché resolutions.
On the surface, The Man of God is about a bad boy who tries to run away from his destiny but eventually ends up fulfilling said destiny. At least that’s the point I thought the filmmaker was trying to make. But taking a deeper look you can’t help but notice a lot of troubling stereotypes being propagated in the cause of the story unveiling, and that it fails itself by being far removed from the reality it pretends to be stoked in with its subtle evangelistic premise.
A good example is a scene where Pastor BJ (Prince Nelson Enwerem) persuades Joy (Atlanta Bridget Johnson) to break off her romantic relationship with the protagonist Samuel (Akah Nnani) using a very distasteful tactic. Clearly, there are bad eggs even in the Christiandom; people who profess the faith but stay susceptible to the influence of the regular world —an issue the movie itself tries to address with its overarching plot— but everything about Pastor BJ’s approach to the matter felt very unrealistic. A myriad of issues is to blame for this, from the underwhelming way the screenplay lets it play out to the choice to cast Prince of BBNaija fame in the role. Prince might have been a decent actor while in Big Brother’s house but even a role as minor as this one somehow felt difficult for him to chew.
Across the board, the acting performances, although one of the better parts of the movie, still felt lacking in depth. We’ve seen actors breathe life into characters in movies so bad that the only thing you remember when the end credits roll in is their one-of-a-kind, stand-out performances. We don’t get that from any of the actors here, including from the lead Akah Nnani. Now, this isn’t to say Akah is bad in the role. Not at all. In fact, some of my favourite parts of the movie were from him (cue in his onstage, high-life performances channeling Afrobeats legend Fela). Add that to commendable deliveries from Dorcas Shola Fapson (DSP), Atlanta Bridget Johnson, and a brief appearance by veteran Eucharia Anunobi, and you have a cast that, more or less, does their best to work with the material available at hand. This brings us back to the screenplay. Everything in a movie starts and ends with the quality of the screenplay – I can’t scream this enough!
I should quickly add that the convenience of an averagely written screenplay that struggles to balance its jumpy timelines, an abundance of mundane storylines that go next to nowhere, and its actor’s strengths and weaknesses doesn’t apply to Mauwili ‘fine-boy’ Gavor. That guy still can’t act to save his life even if it depended on it.
If you paid a little bit of attention, you probably would’ve noticed that a portion of The Man of God’s story progression felt a little over the place; sometimes coming across as though one was watching a stage-play. Director Bolanle Austen-Peters is well known for running Terra Kulture, an art arena known for stage plays and other such cultural presentations; it’s hard to not see the effects of her expertise in that art form seep into The Man of God, even though the screenplay for this was officially penned by another person (Shola Dada). This can be distracting or generally unnoticeable depending on who you ask.
In conclusion, I’d say The Man of God had multiple opportunities to be a one-of-a-kind, emotional Christian-ish drama with the kind of nuances Mount Zion movies weren’t afforded when they were the toast of the town, but what we get is a product with a shiny cover and content that falls short of its great potentials, just like its lead character’s life.
Should you still go ahead and watch The Man of God? I’d say yes, especially if you’re the kind of movie-watcher who cares more about the story told than how it’s delivered.
Directed by: Bolanle Austen-Peters