Living In Bondage: Breaking Free sequel! Review of Nollywood’s most-anticipated 2019 film

The most talked-about Nollywood film of the year, Living In Bondage: Breaking Free, hit the cinemas on the 8th of November 2019. 

Movies in 2020 - Best New Upcoming ...
Movies in 2020 - Best New Upcoming Films of 2020

The film is a sequel to Living In Bondage, a two-part film first released in 1992/93, and is enjoying a good run at the cinema. It has so far set several records including the only film to retain the number one spot in three consecutive weeks in 2019 as well as the highest weekend-opening weekend for a Nollywood film in 2019.

We asked one of our staff members, (don’t worry, she volunteered), to watch and review the film and to evaluate whether the hype and buzz the film has been generating are justified. Her brief also includes providing a disinterested assessment of the film as she perceived it.

Below is her review of the film. At the end of the review, she rates the film out of a scale of 1 to 5 stars, which you can find at the end of the article. Enjoy.

Living In Bondage: Breaking Free review

We heard the voice before we saw the people. It was the voice of a girl-child singing a well-known Igbo lullaby: “Onye tiri nwa na-ebe akwa? Which means: “Who beat the child that was crying?

The voice was eerie and enthralling. Your senses are heightened and you want to know how such a young voice could sound so sorrowful. Then the camera pans to the source of the sound. But the picture that we are shown was that of a happy child playing with her doll, in the back seat of her father’s car. Her demeanour resembles nothing like the spooky sound of her voice. Her father had promised to take her to visit a waterfall and she appeared happy to be going on the trip, or so she thought. But they drove to a thick forest, in the dead of night. The innocent child’s expectations were far from the reality on the ground. The one who should have protected her proves to be the harbinger of death. Innocent blood was shed.

Ramsey Nouah, the director of Living In Bondage sequel, did a good job of prepping the audience for the entire theme that ran the course of the film – nothing is what it seems. Trust not what you see, the reality is far from plain sight.

I am very particular about which films I choose to see at the cinemas. Not because I don’t love films but time is precious and I don’t want to waste my time watching craps. But Living In Bondage: Breaking Free was an exception, it was a film that I was going to see no matter what. Growing up in the East in the 90s, I was fortunate to have seen the first two-part movie that was directed by Chris Obi Rapu and starred Kenneth Okonkwo as Andy Okeke and Nnenna Nwabueze as Merit (Andy’s wife). I do recall the general outline of the films (which I would subsequently refer to as the first film or the first Living In Bondage) but I no longer remember the specifics. What I do remember, though, I remember fondly. So, when the news that a sequel has been completed, I was beyond excited and marked the date on my calendar. Barring force majeure, there was no way I was going to miss seeing the film. I went with high expectations given the history of the film, the names behind the production and the publicity on social media and the airwaves.

The opening scene described above did not disappoint. I was prepped and wanted to see more.

We were introduced to Nnamdi, Andy Okeke’s son (Jidekene Achufusi aka Swanky JKA). An outgoing, smart, happy, young man who is very ambitious and plans to rule his world even though he is down on his luck at the moment. Nnamdi was not the get rich at any cost the film trailer had led us to believe.  The producer did a good job of masquerading his character in the trailer. Contrary, Nnamdi was a kind and friendly person, humorous, loyal to his family and would take the blame for wrong actions taken by others just to protect the other person’s reputation. I don’t want mother to feel disappointed in you because she is proud of you, Nnamdi tells his cousin Tubi Nworie (Shawn Faqua), during a scene after the latter had bashed their father’s old car and the parents wanted to know who did it and Nnamdi claimed responsibility.

But we know he was worried. His immediate future was very uncertain. He had quit his job, which took him five years to get, and the client he had hoped to get had moved to the competition. Mother is not really his mother; she was his aunt. His knowledge of his parents are sketchy at best and no one is enlightening his knowledge about them. Here the audience is not really much wiser. We knew from the first film that Andy Okeke (Kenneth Okonkwo) did not have a child, so where did Nnamdi come from? The film explains that Andy’s wife did not tell Andy that she was pregnant before and after she left him. When she died, her sister took the child and raised him as his own even though he answers Andy’s surname, Okeke. Andy was never aware of the child’s existence until Uzoma (David Jone David), a blogger with his own vendetta approached and told him.

Do you remember Chief Omego (Kanoyo O. Kanoyo) from the first film? He was one of the cult members that Andy Okeke belonged to. He was also only one of the three cast members from the first Living In Bondage to star in the sequel. The others are Chief Mike (Bob Manuel Udogwu) and Andy Okeke (Kenneth Okonkwo). Chief Omego’s son, Obinna Omego (Enyinna Nwigwe), provided Nnamdi with the card to success – Richard Williams (Ramsey Nouah) after Chief Omego asked him to assist Nnamdi.

Richard would daggle the “Key to the good life” before Nnamdi. Private jets. Cruises. Beautiful women. Exclusive parties. Fast cars.  Not forgetting Montecristo Cuban cigar, “The best of the best,” Richard calls it as he plays on Nnamdi’s psyche to get him to say yes.

Living in Bondage-a Breaking Free review. Scene from the film

Growing up, you always wanted more,” Richard continues his sales pitch. “Do you want this life – to the life you were born into.” That was a subtle reference that Nnamdi’s father, Andy Okeke was a member of Richard’s Cult, The Cult of Six. But the significance of that phrase – “to the life you were born into” was not immediately obvious, certainly not to Nnamdi and not necessarily to the audience either.

I can give it to you, everything. You name it – success, influence, power, you name it.”

Ramsey Nouah as Richard Willams was suave, sophisticated, assured and speaks in a measured and deliberate tone. You want to listen to him on hours unending. How can you refuse anything he asks of you or doubt or question his motives.

Are you ready to get your key?”

“What key?”

The key to the good life

The thing about this film is that though it’s fast-paced, the audience, or at least I, didn’t feel like I was being left behind. The sequence of events makes logical sense – from the time Obinna introduced Nnamdi to Richard to the time Richard demanded payback. There was an indeterminate length of time between those periods. We can’t say precisely how long it was. It could have been days or it could have been years. But payback time sooner or later catches up.

So, one can speculate that Nnamdi was naïve to think he got “the good life” just because (fill in the gap). But he was not the only naïve one. Up until the big confrontation between Nnamdi and Richard where the former wanted out, the audience had also been under the impression that Nnamdi got looped into the Cult of the Six because Obinna introduced him to Richard. But that was not the case. We learnt that the Cult has always had their eyes on him as Richard explains to Nnamdi:

You are special because your blood lineage is part of it”, that is part of the Cult of the Six. That line is also a brilliant linkage of the sequel Living In Bondage: Breaking Free to the 1992 film. When Andy took an oath with the cult, he also did so on behalf of his lineage. That line also explains Richard’s quick friendship and patronage of Nnamdi Okeke, not necessarily because he cared for him (which he might have) but definitely as a revenge to get back to Andy Okeke, the only member to have got away from the Cult. That line also explains what Richard meant when he sad to Nnamdi: “to the life, you were born into.

Now is the time to pay and you will pay,” Richard tells Nnamdi.

Nnamdi should have remembered Richard’s warning when he yielded to his persuasion. “I want it, I want it all,”  Nnamdi had said to Richard. He should have been aware that the “Key” has a price. “It’s not free my boy,” Richard had replied, “when you take, you give.

Of course, given that the film builds on the first film, it is easy to assume one can predict the plotline but Ramsey Nouah did a good job of introducing sufficient twists and turns to present a fresh take on some of the predictable scenes. Take for instance the scene of Nnamdi’s initiation into the Cult. He wasn’t even aware until after the fact.

Living in Bondage - Breaking Free review. Scene from the film

Also, the church scene where Richard goes to confront Andy. One would have thought he went to Andy to gloat but no, he wanted Andy to “bow” to him. He wasn’t giving up, after all these years. It was also interesting that for the second time in the history of the Cult of the Six that it has been thwarted by the Andy Okeke or his lineage, perhaps because they are inherently good people?

As a viewer, I was very curious about how the producers will handle the ending of the film. I certainly was not relishing the prospects of a scene of a deliverance session of some sort, that would have totally spoilt the film for me. That sort of closure may have been okay 27 years ago but not today. The events of the film, after all, were not taking place in “classical Nollywood,” as Richard tells Nnamdi – another epic dialogue from the film. The writers did a good job of devising an alternative ending that was rooted in reality. At the end of the day, human beings make decisions even when the choices appear hard. Bad people are bad people and would try to use every means to intimidate others but once their evil ways are exposed, they scamper and hide. That was exactly what Richard did after he was exposed by Uzoma on national tv. He jumped into his private plane and was flown away to an undisclosed destination. Coward! But I also think the plot also leaves room for another sequel. Ramsey Nouah is definitely onto something there.

Nnamdi was the hero of his life. He may have been ambitious but he never lost the goodness of his heart nor his integrity. Some might call him a coward for attempting suicide but his other choice was to murder someone else. He refused to go that route. Commendable in my book. If your life choices demand that blood be shed, you better shed yours and not an innocent person’s.

Andy Okeke is now a pastor who has dedicated his life to the church. We could see he was fearless but it was a bit naïve of him to think he could just waltz into Nnamdi’s life just like that. No wonder Nnamdi didn’t believe him when he tried to warn him to stay clear of Richard. But we know he could be counted upon to protect Nnamdi. He was there when Kelly (Munachi Abii) called upon him to help her save Nnamdi.

Now Kelly, this review so far has been silent about her. She was Nnamdi’s love interest. He met and fell in love with her during Obinna’s third traditional marriage. The Cult wanted her to be sacrificed. She was there for him to the very end. At an earlier scene, Kelly had left Nnamdi because she couldn’t stand the secrecy but in the end, she returned and was the one that saved his life.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B2pX23Yg0Bi/

Obinna committed suicide as the ghost of his daughter continued to haunt him. Yes, he was that man at the opening scene that murdered his own blood, his daughter. He was the one that “beat the child that was crying.

So, my review has dwelt mostly on the story and the main characters. Others might want to say some things about the technical aspects like sound, lighting, shots, etc. I’m not really technical savvy enough to review those but I can say from an amateur perspective, those seemed alright to me. I had no issue with the sound or lighting or such but experts may say otherwise. However, I noticed that subtitling was not complete, some subtitling was omitted. Not an issue for me as I understand Igbo very well but that could be an issue for viewers who don’t. It might seem like a minor fault but if I spent N2800 to see a film, I expect to be able to understand all dialogues.

Another thing about this film is that it appeared to be driven mostly by the characters of Richard and Nnamdi. The story was told mostly from their perspective. The other actors seem to play minor roles in comparison as their characters were not well-developed. Not even Kelly’s was fully explored. She suddenly went from this pretty, quiet girl Nnamdi met and was dating to the wounded and angry girl that left because Nnamdi appeared to be acting weird. There was no build-up to the change in her character nor Nnamdi’s character towards her. For the director of the film, a single, largely unremarkable scene at a restaurant was enough to precipitate a volcano. I thought the argument that erupted between her and Nnamdi was over the top following that single moment.

It is also notably that Living In Bondage: Breaking Free has no flashbacks. The film could have benefited from one or two flashbacks. If nothing else at least to refresh viewers’ memory – 27 years have been a long time. Not sure why the producers decided against using flashbacks. It could be that the footage no longer exists, which would be a shame.

This Living In Bondage: Breaking Free review will not be complete without a shout out to the soundtrack. Well-chosen and beautifully executed. Larry Gaaga and co-did a great job at choosing and composing the songs. The soundtrack is worth owning, in my view.

Final Thoughts…

I would recommend seeing Living In Bondage: Breaking Free. You don’t need to have seen the first film to follow the plotline.

Fantastic plots interspersed with witty punchlines and comedic effects. The acting was top-notch.

Swanky JKA was outstanding. He delivered one of the best performances I have ever seen in recent time. The emotional bond between him and Shawn Faqua was so real, you can almost touch it.

The sex scene between Swanky JKA and Munachi Abii was tastefully executed – felt real and nothing vulgar.

Ramsey Nouah as Richard Williams was exceptional. Being also the director of the film, I think he understands his vision for the character and he delivered – no question.

If I were to rate this Living In Bondage sequel, it would get a solid 4.75 star from me. I strongly recommend watching Living In Bondage: Breaking Free.

Have you seen or plan to see Living In Bondage: Breaking Free? Share your thoughts with us.

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