• Monday, March 04, 2024
businessday logo


‘Breath of Life’: A visually stunning story of faith, friendship

Breath of life

Storylines along faith and religion often follow familiar lines in Nollywood movies. The majority are about clergies conflicting with witches in their communities, wayward pastors taking advantage of their congregation, or whatever contortions the scriptwriters deem visually familiar with the local audience.

‘Breath of Life’, a Prime Video original written and directed by BB Sasore and produced by Eku Edewor, takes a refreshing trajectory in exploring the subject of faith. The result is a visually beautiful movie with award-worthy performances from Wale Ojo, Chimezie Imo, and Genoveva Umeh, whose characters intersect to weave a story that keeps the viewer glued to the end.

Usually, this reporter reviews movies simply because they have recently been released and are on his radar. However, ‘Breath of Life’ was highly recommended by not one but two people who watched it recently.

The movie was released on Prime Video on November 15 by Nemsia Films co-founded by Derin Adeyokunnu. Narrated through the voice of Elijah, ‘Breath of Life’ is a faith-based movie that follows the story of Timi, who has lost his sense of purpose until he meets Elijah who changes his life and destiny.

The movie journeys through the 1950s to showcase the stellar life of a young Timi (played by Ademola Adedoyin). He spoke 16 languages, four of which were extinct. Timi’s definition of fun was rewriting the holy books in different languages. He didn’t just graduate at the top of his class, he was also the most excellent candidate in the British Navy and could hold his breath underwater for 57 minutes, the longest by anyone. He was also the first African to become a clergyman in the Great Church of England.

After marrying his heartthrob Bridget (Eku Edewor) and having a beautiful daughter, Timi decided to return to his community in Nigeria as a wealthy clergy. For a while, his new life in the village was perfect.

However, things go awry for the young family one day in the village. A local thug and gang invade the community causing mayhem. When the villagers pushed back and involved the colonial police and judicial system, little did Timi know that the decision would be his worst nightmare. After testifying against Baby Fire, the village thug, with the hope that his testimony would swing justice in the villagers’ favour, the corrupted colonial judge dismissed the charges for lack of evidence and put the life of Timi and his family in real danger. The tragic events that would later ensue as a result of Baby Fire exerting vengeance on Timi’s family would define the recluse that he became.

Timi (played by Wale Ojo) evolves into an older man in the 80s being barricaded by his emotional turmoil. Watching Ojo’s interpretation of older Timi is a treat. It is also his most challenging role so far, as he alluded to during an interview at the launch of the movie. He noted that previous movie projects had one-dimensional roles; they were easy to interpret because they stopped at certain emotional points, unlike ‘Breath of Life’.

“At points like this, as an actor, you can’t go any further. With ‘Breath of Life’, it’s a completely different story. In the script, I saw the opportunity to dive into the rat hole of a character and bring out what I call nuances. The script gives you that wand. It gives dimensions and you can dive in. The details of the props were carefully picked down to the minor pieces of things like plates, the spoons, and the choice of house. What many people do not know is this thing helps the actor to get immersed in the production. I was immersed,” Ojo said.

Another cast who was also immersed in his character was Chimezie Imo, who played the role of the young man Elijah. Before he came into the life of Timi, Elijah was diagnosed with a terrible lung disease that he mistook for asthma and was managing with an inhaler. His rasping breath and intermittent nervousness when faced with awkward situations, either with a short-tempered Timi or an audacious Anna, the auxiliary nurse that wandered into his life, would send Elijah running to his inhaler more often.

Elijah and Timis’s first encounter was not as smooth as would be expected of someone who has lived alone and has a healthy suspicion of people who come into his home or want to work for him. The ‘House Boy’ who left before Elijah came knocking on the door was sent packing with a gunshot barely missing his head. Elijah himself nearly got shot for entering the house without being invited in by the owner.

As Ojo mentioned, ‘Breath of Life’ delivers perfectly on the props and attention to detail. Timi lives in a stately house on a mountain that looks over the entire community. The view of the community from the mountain is visually charming and gives off the vibes of a man who would do anything to be left alone. The more impressive details are the cobwebs that are very visible in many parts of the house, letting you into the life Timi chose to lead after his wife and daughter were murdered by Baby Fire. Elijah takes his time to discover the bits and pieces of the life of the man he has come to serve and later would call father.

The use of several items in the house to unlock the bottled emotions in Timi was brilliant. The way his eyes will light up at the sight of a certain piece of furniture he has not used since the tragedy 30 years ago, the emotional reconnection to the videos of his family playing outside the compound, his early morning newspaper ritual, and his love for scrambled eggs and coffee made with specific instructions all interweave to define the man.

Anna, the nurse who became the love interest of Elijah, brought a refreshing balance in the relationship between Timi and Elijah. Where Elijah was placating and sometimes timid to inform Timi about his relationships, it was Anna who would come banging on the front door to introduce herself to the house owner. Having the door shut twice in her face would not deter her until Timi would let her into the house and also into his heart. It was Anna who would face off with her bully of a father, Chief Amachree (played by Sam Dede), when he threatened to demolish the church Elijah had been using for Bible Study. It was Anna who would confront Timi for not joining Elijah to stop the demolition of the church built by Timi when he relocated to the village.

‘Breathe of Life’ scores so many powerful emotional scenes. One of them is Elijah sitting outside the home of Anna overnight pleading for her love while the rain drenched him. There is also the joyful moment when Timi rides on a bicycle with Elijah, his first time in over 30 years. Timi finding his faith and begging God to sacrifice him to save a dying Elijah was so powerful it leaves you teared up.

The two-hour movie hardly put a step in the wrong direction. Every scene was a heap of emotions, joy, love and friendship. ‘Breath of Life’ delivered one of the most stunning storytelling that Nollywood is rarely known for and it comes highly recommended.