The newly released “Far from Home,” Netflix’s first young adult show from Nigeria, has left a lasting impression on Nigerians and has continued to spark discussion on a number of social media platforms. So here is my take on Nollywood’s attempt at something new.
What makes Far From Home so refreshing is the attempt to create something unique, which is something that New Nollywood, as the latest generation of Nigerian films is affectionately referred to by audiences, has frequently been criticized of lacking. Audiences are sick of half-baked plotlines and mediocre acting that is accentuated by glamorous shots of the Lagos skyline, particularly the third mainland bridge.
We are introduced to Ishaya Bello (Mike Afolarin) in Far from Home, an ambitious artist with big dreams who finds himself in an exclusive school for the one percent after winning a prestigious scholarship.
The show begins with Ishaya doing odd jobs in order to raise the hundred thousand naira required to participate in a prestigious art program hosted by his idol and renowned artist Essien. His efforts, however, are futile as his family depletes his savings to address pressing issues. As a result, Ishaya resorts to applying for a scholarship at Willer Academy in the hopes of receiving a $10,000 cash prize using stolen funds from his boss/drug lord and illegally gotten examination answers.
However, after receiving the scholarship, he is informed that he will only receive N5,000 after expenses. As a result, Ishaya and his family are left at the mercy of his boss, Government, and Rambo, his partner, who threaten to kill him and his family. To escape their wrath and save his sister Ishaya proposes to sell their drugs at Wilmer Academy.
The storyline is remarkably entertaining and fresh. You would definitely find yourself invested in seeing how it progresses while rooting for Ishaya despite his numerous flaws. What’s more, his character undergoes significant character development throughout the series which gives more depth to his story.
Another positive was the acting, despite people’s fears that the actors looked too old to be teenagers in the show’s poster, they all brought their A game and delivered phenomenal performances. Most notable were Mike Afolarin as Ishaya Bello, Emeka Nwagbaraocha as Frank and Natse Jemide as Reggie. Speaking of the cast, it was also nice seeing new faces take up the leading roles while veteran Nigerian actors like Adesua Etomi, Funke Akindele and RMD served in supporting roles.
Though it is not the best Nollywood has produced, the cinematography in Far From Home was another highpoint that helped elevate the feel of the show. The locations, particularly Wilmer academy, perfectly captured the luxury emphasized in the plotline. We can also not forget its fantastic soundtrack, the producers successfully infused tracks that flowed perfectly with the story at all times.
To say the plot of the show is complicated is an understatement. The show lacked proper spacing because plotlines such as Ishaya and his drug dealing business, Ishaya’s romance with Carmen, who was being cheated on by her boyfriend and best friend, and Carmen’s struggle with drug addiction were all happening at the same time. To be honest, it wasn’t so much the storylines as it was how they were handled.
The producers seemed to be throwing whatever they could think of at the wall and seeing what happened. This was most noticeable in the last episode, where it appears that the producers crammed four episodes’ worth of content into one. I’m not sure why they were rushing because 5 episodes was clearly insufficient to flesh out the mess they created.
Still focused on the plot, at times it seemed that the producers had forgotten about their own story! For example, following the fire, security cameras were installed throughout the school complex. Yet a student was easily kidnapped and no one noticed? Make it make sense. Also, how did Rambo and his men enter the school premises without resistance when the school authorities had reported his threat to the police?
Far From Home also lacked authenticity as well, at times it felt like a poor imitation of other young adult Netflix shows like Blood and Water, Elite, and Heart Break High. Perhaps this was done on purpose to appeal to a wider audience, but the show suffered as a result. Let’s be honest: how many poor Nigerian families living in the trenches celebrate their birthdays with cakes and cone-shaped hats? How many Lagos thugs wear well-ironed corporate shirts and carry tasers? For a Nigerian show, Far From Home lacked relatable Nigerian elements.
Throughout the show there was plenty of talk about wealth but no visible display of wealth. Because, unlike the contemporaries it attempted to imitate, the show also failed to properly showcase the kids’ lavish lifestyle. What, these apparently wealthy kids could only throw one shabby party in an apartment building?
What’s more, side characters such as Reggie, Atlas, Zina, and Frank were poorly handled in terms of character development and remained one-dimensional throughout the season. Denrele in particular seemed to serve no purpose beyond giving Ishaya access to the illegal examination answers.
The show’s biggest flaw is probably Wilmer Academy itself. We are never told what type of school it is, and since it is obviously not a secondary school, it appears to be a school for A level students. Let’s be realistic, teenagers in Nigeria are too focused on getting into university after finishing secondary school to care about post secondary schools.
So, why would Rahila, a girl from a low-income family in Isale Eko, aspire to attend Wilmer rather than Unilag? Furthermore, given that the school officials were aware that Ishaya cheated, why was he still given the scholarship when they could have easily given it to someone else without being questioned? The producers appear to have wanted to keep the story going regardless of whether it was cohesive or not.
With all of this in mind, I give Far From Home a 7/10. It’s an entertaining show, but there’s definitely plenty of room for improvement and hopefully Season 2 will be a lot better.
You can stream Far From Home now on Netflix.