By Gloriah Amondi.
[Because a review of a very short movie about young people doing young things [like sitting inside a supermarket trolley] deserves to be reviewed by a young person.]
Every tragic story has the `what if´ moment. That moment that decides the ending for the story. The moment that decides who goes home and who doesn’t:
Head– you end up home, wasted but alive.
Tails– you end up dead (or, alive but in prison).
Take for instance, if you ended up in a matatu accident, your ´what if´ moment is that split-second moment where you had thought of taking another matatu but changed your mind, or when you picked your friend´s call to go out (when you had wanted to ignore it). In history, that would be the moment Princess Diana got into the car, or when JFK stood to wave to the crowd.
What if I had gotten into a different matatu?
What if I had ignored the call?
What if she had left a little bit later, or not all?
What if he had sat in the car or, at least, delayed?
But let me not get ahead of myself yet.
On the surface, this is a story about three friends:
Ken, a tall, funky-haired, thirty-something year old man (he doesn’t look it) who still lives with his grandmother. He has no job yet, and he spends most of his evenings hanging out with his two friends, Makena (who he´s deeply in love with, but tries to hide) and Manu (whom he secretly detests). He is also the oldest of the three, and naturally, the one who always has to pay for stuff when they are hanging out.
Makena is the darling girl of the triad. The Rihanna of the Asap Rocky-Tyler the Creator-Rihanna squad. She plays the role of the darling female presence, the peacemaker but can also be a damsel in distress. She is still in school, presumably a college, but the emphasis seems to be on her basketball career, though that never stops her from saying yes to sherehe.
Manu is the functional alcoholic of the group. A brilliant student, from an okay family and a father who says adorable things like, si uende utafute rika yako you hangout (in my family, the word rika in any sentence- especially if it came from my mother, it was always coming from her, anyway- was followed by a stinging slap across your face). Generally, he has a comparatively comfortable life, and his only worries- naturally, because he’s a student- seem to be dropping grades. According to Ken, he’s also a lightweight- can’t handle his alcohol like a man; always has to be carried back home.
There’s a lot more happening in the movie. It opens with a scene of Makena on the ground, unconscious (dead?) surrounded by a crowd of faces and Manu desperately trying to wake her up by shaking her (the way they do in movies). The second scene, and the others that follow tell the story of how they got there. The before.
The scenes take us through the lives of the trio, 4 weeks before the tragedy. You know, the nitty gritties of life: conversations, hanging out, drinking, basketball practices, school, family, drinking again.
It is a story about friendship, but it is also a story about how an otherwise harmless thing like alcohol can mess up good (and in this case, young) lives.
While Manu is the one who’s presented as the person who cannot handle alcohol, it is Ken, in fact, who cannot. Manu merely blacks out in the presence of the great master. Ken on the other hand gets aggressive when he drinks.
Every squad of friends has a Ken. The one who gets abusive when drunk. He’s also the one who often gets into fights with strangers in the bar, and has to be saved by the others. More aggressive versions of Ken may have scars, broken teeth, distorted face or a murder record.
Ken’s aggression in this case also seems to stem from the fact that he might have an attraction towards Makena, who seems (or at least he believes) is attracted to Manu. It’s the classic love-jealousy story:
‘You want somebody who wants somebody else.’
We all know it. I for once, have lived and shared a house and a bed with somebody who was sharing life with someone else. I wish I could tell you that that’s all, but my person would come back to weep in my arms on some evenings. I thought at first that they were having terrible days at work (they couldn’t talk about it), but it turns out it was because their other person was losing vision in one of the eyes. (If you’re asking for the end of this story, there isn’t.)
Of course Ken does not take it well. Nobody ever takes it well. He is enraged when he tries to kiss Makena at a party in his house and he’s rejected. Manu, of course, comes to her rescue, and the furious Ken- drunk and rejected- turns to leave but is triggered when Manu asks if he’s jealous.
This here, ladies and gentlemen, is the `what if’ moment of the movie.
What if he had not turned back, and continued walking away?
You already know the rest of the story:
Away from the story, the other things in the film were also done well. The technical stuff: sound, lighting, cutaways were all executed perfectly.
What I found a bit unbelievable is the man at the liquor store asking Ken for his ID before selling him the quarters. I thought it was very American-movie-like, but even then, they only ask if you look like a child masquerading as an adult (which Ken didn’t). However, it’s possible that the writer of the story did that intentionally, perhaps to introduce the age of the character.
The intention of the director (the moral of the story) is clearly to advise you to drink responsibly, especially when you already have anger problems; or to warn you that alcohol, when not checked, can ruin a life; or, simply (without getting philosophical) that alcohol will get your face smashed (it’s in the title).
My take away however would be: Cut them off! Leave while you still can! (Also, this has nothing to do with you guys. I’m telling myself).
You can watch the movie here.