2006 Big Brother Nigeria winner, Katung Aduwak directs this psychological thrillerr called “Heaven’s Hell.” Domestic violence, emotional abuse, mental health, eating disorders and narcissism form the bedrock for Aduwak’s film.
No doubt the movie’s trailer is attention-grabbing. But it makes light the seriousness of the movie and could make you uninterested. That would be a mistake because “Heaven’s Hell” is unusual. And for once, we have a movie that is not ridden with cliches.
“Heaven’s Hell” is a based on true events and follows the story of Jeff and Tsola Aliu, and their best friends Edward and Alice Henshaw. Chet Anekwe and Bimbo Akintola play the Alius. While Jacob’s Cross actor Fabian Adeoye Lojede and Nse Ikpe-Etim are the Henshaws.
Early on in the movie, Edward announces Jeff as senior partner at the law firm, Henshaw and Aliu. Subsequently, he tells Jeff that he would be going on an early retirement to take care of Alice. But we don’t know what ails her. As a result, he hands over the affairs of his law firm to Jeff. Jeff is egotistical but he knows his onions. He won’t return courtesies or pleasantries. Safe to say everyone accepted him like that until the intern Janet Cole (Damilola Adegbite) came into the picture.
Janet is intelligent. Initially, Jeff was not interested when she tried to befriend him. But she was persistent. And Jeff likes a good challenge so he began to find Janet fascinating. His wife Tsola is an ex-journalist now a bored housewife. She feels threatened by Jeff’s friendship with Janet and shares her marital problems with Alice. Alice always gives her a shoulder to cry on.
Alice is carefree and bold. She loves her cigarette and swearing is her thing. But in the confines of her room there is the air of malaise. In the public glare, Edward is the husband every woman hopes for. But behind closed doors, he has disturbing flashes of the past and he is a sadist. Edwards gets pleasure from Alice’s pain to get-off sexually. However, the directors treatment of the issue on the wedding night is ridiculous.
The screenwriters use Janet as a plot device to advance the story. They show how people like Tsola can be so consumed in their problems that they don’t recognise that those they are relying on have problems too.
The film’s dialogue is really entertaining. The game night scene is very memorable and Adegbite gives a top-notch performance. A lot of Nollywood actresses struggle to play flirtatious but not Ms Adegbite. Edward’s estranged daughter is imposing when she gives her lecture on mulattoes. Anekwe is even more imposing. In general, the cast is impressive also starring favourites; Bimbo Manuel, OC Ukeje, Gideon Okeke and Linda Ejiofor.
In spite of that the fact that “Heaven’s Hell” is a 2015 film, it was released in cinemas in May. The poor production values might be behind the delayed theatrical release. The film’s editing, make-up and props leave much to be desired. The sound, especially in the early scenes, is also problematic. When one considers the calibre of lawyers in the story, you will agree that the locations are distasteful. The blue, purple and pink walls will make you cringe.
Aduwak’s “Heaven’s Hell” could easily have made the list of Nollywood’s best for 2019 but for poor production values. Regardless, his bold attempt to capture the enormity of societal ills easily ignored in Nigeria is praise-worthy.