Review: 'Walking With Shadows' is Predictable and Flat

by Roger Walker-Dack

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday June 22, 2021

'Walking With Shadows'
'Walking With Shadows'  (Source:Frameline45)

"Walking with Shadows" has all the emotional set pieces that are expected from a film about a gay man who ends up married to appease the religious expectations of his family. With little to offer in the way of surprises, the story plods towards a predictable destination whilst managing to under-deliver on its dramatic potential.

Adapted from Jude Dibia's 2005 novel by Aiofe O'Kelly, the film is set in Lagos, Nigeria. Adrian (Ozzy Agu) has recently been promoted, and has a beautiful wife and daughter. His apparently ideal life begins to fall apart after he gets a call from a blackmailer and his wife, family, and coworkers learn that he is gay.

There then follows a succession of scenes that were obviously selected with the belief that they had the most potential for dramatic punch. His wife Ada (Zaianab Balogun) tearfully demands to know the truth. His brothers corner him and condemn him for "the ultimate sin." An opportunistic co-worker accuses him of propositioning him. His wife takes their daughter to the doctor for the results of an HIV test. A pastor berates him for letting the devil in, and violently exorcises him. His mother demands to know why he is refusing to be normal and bringing shame on his family.

The problem is that each scene is inadequately set up. Little is learnt about the support characters' personalities and motivations before they are thrust into the middle of the action. As such, they end up being conveniences of the script rather than true characters in themselves. Whilst this approach successfully communicates the injustice shoveled on Adrian, it does little to make a deep or satisfying experience for the audience.

The performance of Ozzy Agu has a teary-eyed vulnerability that manages to keep a sympathetic thread going through the storyline. HIs wife, actress Zainab Balogun, also has a dignity that manages to establish both her and Adrian as victims. But the single note coming from the unestablished characters around them leaves them struggling to turn key scenes into emotional crescendos. A monotonous musical score also tends to drag each scene down, towards a flat common denominator.

"Walking with Shadows" had a potential that was shortchanged by the selective choices. Overly focusing on the edited dramatic highlights loses a lot of the supportive elements of character and context that would have made them more meaningful and touching.

"Walking With Shadows" is screening at Frameline Film Festival.

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.