There are so many themes that resonate with me in this film, The Man Of God by Bolanle Austen-Peters.
What jumps out as a mom of two boys with different personalities is the nature vs nature argument.
Samuel, (Akah Nnani) the lead character, was a rebel from childhood when you’re at your most authentic.
If only we could accept our children as they are rather than force them into a mould they will only shatter and shatter violently in his case, we’d have a healthier society. Samuel was not Daniel, neither was he his dad. His father’s harshness is obvious but his mother’s passiveness was more insidious.
We heap opprobrium on mothers who turn a blind eye when their children are sexually abused but give a pass to those who mutter and murmur, wringing their hands while the father tries to beat the life (literally/figuratively) out of the child.
That double standard never occurred to me till Rakiya (Dorcas Shola Fapson) asked Samuel what his mom did to deserve being rejected so.
The lovely Laila Johnson-Salami in her introduction (as the MC at the film’s premiere) referred to the parable of the prodigal son which I’ve read hundreds of times but it is this movie that got me thinking. No one would just flounce off like that. The prodigal son may have also been sorely provoked as Samuel was.
That said, I’m in no position to condemn anyone’s parenting. We’re all doing the best we know how. Samuel’s dad calls to mind a line from “Wuthering Heights”, “Fear made me cruel”.
Samuel’s dad saw clearly that the embryonic instincts within his son when fully grown would destroy him. This was the way he tried to save him, to harm the body and preserve the soul. Samuel’s charismatic performances of devil’s music recalls Lucifer, the first musician and supreme archangel, so beautiful and so gifted. It is that musical talent that can lead to hubris and a mighty fall.
Music intoxicates and he who creates it seduces as we saw with Samuel’s tragic conquest, Josephine. If only Samuel had channeled his power into winning souls for God’s glory, not his.
Samuel’s Vineyard of Love church reminded me of Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” where the Grand Inquisitor encounters Christ in whose name he had been conducting the Spanish Inquisition, burning “heretics” alive. He told Christ to leave town or his sentence of being burnt at the stake would be carried out. He said the church no longer needed Christ and him showing up now will ruin their mission. “We are not with Thee but with him,” The Inquistor told Christ in reference to Satan. This was Samuel’s church like so many others.
It’s an extremely important service to humankind that the movie portrayed this. Equally important is his arc of redemption (one hopes – a sequel please). “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” This is the power of God’s love. A distant second is that of family as his father and brother’s embrace demonstrate. If he walked in to meet Teju (Osas Ighodalo) or Joy (Atlanta Bridget Johnson) he might have had a different reaction.
Speaking of which, the ladies in his life and his relationship with each one is as fascinating as the actresses’ performances were riveting.
The homie-lover-friend, Rakiya who lived fast and died young is easy to judge but without parental guidance it would have taken a miracle for her to have turned out any other way. Teju started off with an unrequited crush on Samuel – and stayed that way. Even while married she never really got the guy and she knew it, the poor dear.
I was proud when she grew a backbone, threatened to destroy him and made good on that threat. This is a woman who saw irrefutable proof of Samuel’s infidelity and couldn’t even confront him much less breathe a soul to anyone else, such was the strength of her wilful blindness. It just goes to show, everyone has their limits.
Although why she imagined a man she knew had cut his mother off wouldn’t eventually discard his wife is beyond me. As for Joy Girl, this is the first time I’ve seen a different side to the undeniably cruel practice of ghosting. She really had no choice. Samuel would never have let her go without a messy fight and she might have caved seeing as she didn’t leave because she didn’t love him.
She didn’t see him as the pastor she would have wanted to be married to and she was right. Even while he headed an organisation he was charlatan and that sham wasn’t a church. Might be have been different if he married Joy?
It’s possible but highly doubtful.
No amount or manner of nurture from her as his wife would change that nature he demonstrated from the jump. She made the right choice.
The performances were superlative. As a director, Bolanle Austen-Peters really outdid herself there. There were no weak links. Akah fully inhabited all the facets and contradictions in Samuel. Teju’s evolution or devolution from wide-eyed girl next door to ostentatious First Lady then scorned woman was deeply satisfying. I was amazed to hear that Dorcas struggled to speak as Rekiya and that the needed needed to coax her. She nailed it so perfectly, one might have assumed she was typecast.
Atlanta’s soulful performance managed to maintain Joy’s purity of heart and intention throughout such that the audience fell in love with her just as Samuel did. The characters were fully realised. The entire cast was fantastic as was the crew.
I’m incredibly proud of all Austen-Peters has achieved and the way she continues to outdo yourself. I’m excited for her next project and can’t wait to see what it is.
I love this movie, The Man Of God.
**Abiola is a lawyer, television anchor and public affairs analyst. The Man Of God premiered on Netflix on April 16, 2022