And if you haven’t, it’s the exciting, new young adult 5-part miniseries from Nigeria. Its the second Netflix original series, and it’s beautiful to watch.
Ishaya Bello (adequately played by Mike Afolarin) is a spirited teenager who, like his father, is a visual artist. He enters a competition to get training from one of the industry’s best, Essien (Deyemi Okanlawon), and he gets picked, but two things stand in his way: finances and his mother’s (Funke Akindele) vehement opposition to the art. We later learn why.
When things don’t go his way, Ishaya is forced to find another way to achieve his dreams including stealing N150,000 from his bosses, taking his sister’s dream of attending Wilmer Academy and getting help from his close buddy Michael (Moshood Fattah).
Things get interesting when he lands a spot at the prestigious school as he is forced to strike a deal with his bosses, Oga Rambo (Bolanle Ninalowo) and the government (Bucci Franklin). The deal turns him into a drug dealer who has sell drugs to the rich kids at Wilmer to save his sister and himself. What follows is more drama and intrigue from the young adults and the rest of the cast.
The most enjoyable thing about ‘Far From Home’ is writing. For the first time in a long time, we get to see good writing that does not just focus on the lead, but the supporting cast.
Considering the fact that this is a limited series with only five episodes, the writers (headed by Dami Elebe) do a good enough job of diving into the characters. We get to see back story and character development with characters like Carmen who appears to be one thing at first, then shows more depth as the series goes on.
Away from the writing, we have to acknowledge the performances of the actors. Going with the theme of the narrative which is the pursuit of one’s dreams and the lengths to which one will go, every character accurately represents this concept, even though our main character demonstrates it most effectively.
Even our antagonist, Atlas (Olumide Owuru), is inspired by his goals and takes the actions he believes will help him achieve them more quickly. Ishaya and Atlas represent opposite ends of the same coin. Both are brutal, self-centered, and narcissistic, but the writers manage to make us cheer for the former.
The character of Denrele (Raymond Umenze) is similar to Arturo from the bank heist. Even when he doesn’t do anything, this character is so well-designed that he sticks out. This is an example of strong writing and character development.
All the actors brilliantly deliver the living version of the built character, and this is what the show rode on. Shout to the casting director(s).
Moshood Fattah, who happens to be a phenomenal stage actor, as evidenced by his starring in almost all the major theatre shows by Bolanle Austen-Peters, expertly delivers a breathtaking performance as Ishaya’s best friend.
He stands out because his role isn’t particularly interesting because, according to character archetypes, he is just a caregiver, which is usually easily forgotten but not in this case; when you think of Ishaya, despite his pool of elite friends, you remember him, and that’s because of how beautifully he delivers his role.
Gbubemi Ejeye brilliantly plays Adufe. Thanks to the writing, she goes from being just the girlfriend and a prop to the lead, an annoying thing that often happens to female supporting characters, to a believable criminal mastermind.
Her performance commands your attention in every scene she is in and even though you disagree with her motivations or choices, you have no choice but to be spellbound by her delivery. She is certainly an actor to watch out for in 2023.
The well-paced nature of ‘Far From Home’ is to be expected given that it features young adults who are hippies and always on the go. Because it is neither too quick nor too slow, it doesn’t bog down.
The cinematography in the film is great, and at times it makes us think of Bong Joon Ho’s masterwork ‘Parasite’ and the way the Korean director employs visual aesthetics to communicate his story.
When Ishaya first enters Wilmer, for instance, there is an overhead shot that symbolizes how little he is in his new environment and how little harm he can do; this is comparable to when Bong’s Ki Woo first enters the Parks’ home in ‘Parasite.’
This particular shot in ‘Far From Home’ deserves to be applauded and shows that there’s intentionality to the shots and how they are carved.
The show manages to mix English, pidgin, slang, and Yoruba well enough compared to other Nollywood projects where similar language choices are made. As a result, the audience is able to follow the story properly.
While ‘Far From Home’ is quite enjoyable and mostly well done, its major setback is the plot progression. It seems logical that since it’s a miniseries, things might need to move quickly, but that doesn’t justify rushing. In the show’s last three episodes, the audience starts to ask questions that they had refrained from asking throughout.
Concerns such as what transpired after Frank (Emeka Nwagbaraocha) was abducted and how he returned so swiftly, why do Ishaya’s friends find it so simple to forgive him? heralded the conclusion of the series. All of these questions might explain why the series ends up leaving a sour taste and why, when Ishaya finally gets his recognition, it doesn’t feel like a victory.
We (and Ishaya) do not have any sense of joy at the conclusion of the story, and this is unacceptable for someone who has witnessed a great deal of ‘shege’ and whom we have accompanied on that journey. But, If there is ever a second season, it appears from a second glance that it is meant to serve as a buildup.
Away from the plot, there are wasted shots like the scene in jail where government grabs the glass during Ishaya’s visit which makes us think he is about to do something with it but nothing happens.
Then there is the lighting. In an attempt to make everything bright, colourful and vibrant, there are scenes that could have aided the storytelling if the background got do some talking but alas the lighting ruined that.
Shoutout to the filmmakers for having an actual hyena on set (Pulse Exclusive) but the animal was not threatening enough to make us believe that it was eating people up like we were supposed to think.
Despite the flaws, ‘Far From Home‘ stands out as one of the most enjoyable projects to come from this part of the world. The movie skillfully provides an amazing cast performance and compelling storytelling even if it explores a recognisable idea and environment.
Everyone needs Michael, and Moshood Fattah expertly delivers him!
Denrele is a silent hero and one of our favorite characters.
We want to see more of Frank and Rahila’s love story.
We also can not wait to see what happens to Adufe if there is a second season. Nollywood needs more strong female characters.
Reggie is a black belt holder? Really?