Those of us living the somewhat suffocating urban middle-class lifestyle in Nairobi and the other major cities will instantly relate to The Roadside. Directed by Willie Owusu, this short film revolves around a slowly disconnecting young couple played by Lupita Nyong’o (Shuga, 12 Years A Slave) and Ndungi Githuku (Changes) who are driving off to one of those out of town chill-out spots for the weekend.
The road trip has been instigated by the lady in the relationship, obviously in need of a change of scenery and a change of the mechanics of the relationship. The man is pretty averse to the trip, preferring to instead spend the day doing something more beneficial.
A couple of suggestive stares later, the lady finds herself alone in the middle of nowhere; her man having walked off to fix a flat tyre. A resident passer-by (Angelo Kinyua) takes an interest in her and what follows is their comical interaction by the roadside, taking up most of the entire film.
With thirty minutes to work with, The Roadside doesn’t really have major twists and turns or moments of intense drama. The film mirrors the chilled out and unhurried mood of the beautiful location. Its major strength lays in the quick character development, witty narration and dialogue written by Angelo Kinyua. There are so many outrageously funny one-liners dropped in the film guaranteed to keep you laughing throughout; such as “I thought rural men had balls.” Really? LMAO!
The film enjoys the comfort of a tried and tested cast that does justice to their characters. Ndungi Githuku looks and sounds every bit like the extremely pre-occupied middle-class Nairobian struggling to erase poverty from his line of sight. Angelo Kinyua does a good job of playing the borderline creepy but charming rural agronomist cum boda boda operator with enough time on his hands to think up the kind of smart and funny stuff a woman like Lupita Nyong’o’s character would get seduced by.
Although it carries itself as a light-hearted rom-com for lazy Sundays, The Roadside has the capacity to ask some fundamental questions along the way about romantic life in modern Kenya. What really matters, is it the big things or the little things? Are our deepest thoughts known to those we say (or think) we love?
THE BOTTOM LINE
Overall this is a well-written and beautifully shot film by the Big Ideas team, considering it was made just before high-definition filming was a thing around these parts. It’s also a chance to witness Lupita Nyong’o’s acting chops in the pre-Oscar days.