Directors: Katleho Ramaphakela, Rethabile Ramaphakela
Screenwriter: Lwazi Mvusi
Cinematographer: Kabelo Thathe
Editor: Sandra Vieira
Cast: Fulu Mugovhani, Tumi Morake, Bohang Moeko, Yonda Thomas
Streaming on: Netflix
As I sat through this exasperating film, I wondered where the Hugh Grant brand of romantic-comedies disappeared. They were charmingly dreamy, oftentimes simplistic as well as cheeky. So, what is it about contemporary romances like Seriously Single that fail to be this sugary and pandering? Is it because their characters are always inexplicably rich? Or because their emotional maturity resembles that of a five-year-old’s? Quite a lot of these answers lie in Lwazi Mvusi’s dreary and humdrum script.
From start to finish, we see the lead of this film, Dineo (Fulu Mugovhani), incessantly mope around, over breakups, and lost chances at marriage and love. She needs to fill only one void in her life — a relationship. And after finding out that her boyfriend Lunga (Bohang Moeko), who is terribly witty and seductive, is about to get married to someone else, she embarks on a journey of soul-searching. Although, it really is just a feat of drunken and debauched partying. The film strangely turns her mid-life crisis into a coming-of-age tale (for a thirty-year-old).
Quite a lot of her searching has to do with social media stalking and ranting. There’s a point in the film when she goes on a livestream, more sloshed than your average Devdas, and hysterically complains about being single. She’s later termed a “desperate bae” by the thousands who revelled in her virally sensational crankiness. There’s another moment when she goes live in order to expose her cheating boyfriend’s identity, only to fail to turn her front camera around (we end up seeing her face while she confidently and publicly cocks a proverbial snook at her ex). What’s meant to be a cathartic release for her turns into a dubious scene, given that she’s supposed to be the “best” social media manager at her firm. These instances, meant to bring out some wry and ironic humour, are laden with seen-before dialogues and behaviour. Nothing about it seems even remotely ingenious.
Accompanying Dineo in this quest of freedom from codependence is her friend/roommate, Noni (Tumi Morake). The latter believes that if you sleep with someone more than once, you are officially in a relationship. Her highly unnecessary character is filled with unquenchable libido and pessimism. Tumi Morake’s performance is rather uncomfortable and painfully bad. She isn’t able to bring out the sidekick jesting and joshing, and whenever she does try, it results in clumsy and hackneyed preaching (which, of course, it actually meant to be funny). The only source of balance and grounding in this woeful script is offered by Noni’s one-time fling, Max (Yonda Thomas). Directors Katleho Ramaphakela and Rethabile Ramaphakela do not try to milk any humour out of him. He has a disarming and polished presence, bringing some sense of normalcy to a loony ensemble.
This is undoubtedly one of Netflix’s most poorly made films this year. It manages to make every other rom-com on the platform seem like a timeless classic, a paragon of storytelling and character development. A large chunk of the problem is in the fact that the characters are constantly infantilised. They are always objects of ridicule and humiliation, robbing even a dash of earnestness from them. Dineo is glued to her phone, using hashtags like ‘#MyBae’ and ‘#YouJealous’. Noni, during every outing, is on the lookout for a one-night stand. Their sexist, I-need-a-man-in-my-life portrayal is tiring and their pratfalls, too crass. There really is no redeeming this film unless they choose to overhaul the entire screenplay.
Seriously Single is streaming on Netflix.