Shirley Frimpong Manso’s latest masterclass, ‘Potato Potahto’, has been causing waves around the world, winning awards and being met with rave reviews.
The movie recently swept the stakes at the Toronto Film Festival, picking up four awards, and watching it one can see the reason why its such a darling and guaranteed to break box office records when it premieres later this month.
Shirley has broken new ground across the years to the point its become routine, but undoubtedly, she’s raised the standards once again with Potato Potahto, especially at this time when quality has badly fallen and patronage of the industry is dying.
Starring Joselyn Dumas and OC Ukeje in the lead roles, the movie tells the story of every relationship, as I’d like to think they are — of a couple who cannot stop fighting but are simultaneously addicted to each other.
Dumas (Lulu) and Ukeje (Tony) have been married for just about two years when they decide to seek a divorce. Having signed a pre-nup before getting married, its easy divvying up their possessions, but a sticking point comes up when a house they had acquired together during the marriage had to be shared.
Neither was prepared to give up the house they describe as their ‘dream house’, even after they both made offers to buy it from the other. Neither was ready to move out and leave the other alone in the house as well, therefore this divorced couple found themselves staying together in the same house, and the stage was set for drama, hilarity, and of course, forbidden s*x.
The divorced couple living under the same roof shared the house into halves, Tony’s half and Lulu’s half; with each taking half the compound, half the kitchen, half the refrigerator and half the living space.
Despite their puerile attempts to prove they really are separated, the fact that they go to such great lengths to stay together and the manner of their interactions only go to prove that these are two suffering souls only waiting, out of pride, for the other to make the first move.
This stubbornness, which all couples would be familiar with, is at the core of the movie’s message, which is that dialogue is the key. The few times the couple have a real heart to heart – for instance once whilst tied up by armed robbers – they discover a lot of their resentments is due to misreading actions of their spouse or not having the full picture.
Communication is key, and without it two people would both be saying the same thing and still be quarrelling – potato, potahto, so to speak.
“I think communication is very important,” Shirley underscored during the press screening. “The conversation must go on…,fighting in a relationship is not necessarily bad, it just says we’re talking and trying to get our point across,”
This theme runs through the movie till its ‘Inception’-esque last scene, which I personally see as the most brilliant part of the entire masterful production. Intentionally left ambiguous, it tells us that this couple, no matter how many times they reconcile, would fight just one more time. And frankly, that’s the reality of relationships.
“The conversation goes on, the fights go on,” Shirley said of the ending, which one really has to see to appreciate. Christopher Nolan blew everyone’s mind with the ending to Inception 7 years ago and Shirley might just do same.
Another interesting tidbit about Potato Potahto is that it cleverly subverts expectations of what a male/female character should be like. Dumas’ character (Lulu) is stoic to the point of insensitivity, is not interested in little gestures like an early morning kiss or a post coital cuddle, whilst Ukeje’s (Tony) cries for that (the opposite of which traits male/female characters are usually expected to have). Tony hired a househelp just to get the attention of Lulu, which in a more ‘traditional’ movie would be a classic ‘clingy’ woman move. Tony’s best friend Fred had an affair just to get a little attention from his wife!
Shirley bucks the trend and subverts these societal tropes in a nonchalant manner, which again shows why she stands out among so many in the industry.
A fun two hours of highs stakes drama and great romantic scenes, Potato Potahto also has its moments of humour, and on that point Chris Attoh deserves some big ups. Playing the part of Gabby, a dim witted, hugely muscled hired help Dumas got to get back at her husband for hiring a gorgeous female help (Nikki Samonas) – the actor brought indescribable charisma to the part and played the nincompoop to perfection.
The movie is masterfully filmed, without question, with Shirley utilizing several tricks of the trade to keep things fresh. It starts off with an animated sequence showing our favourite couple getting out of court and racing home, and utilizes flashbacks to tell the backstory of the divorce. The soundtrack of the movie is something else, and whoever was in charge of it deserves a couple awards as well.
‘Potato Potahto’ is without question the romantic comedy of the year so far, and with its diverse cast, sharp writing and keen directing, should capture the hearts and minds of the public when it’s premiered November 30th. The movie is written and directed by Sparrow Productions Shirley Frimpong Manso, and stars among others – OC Ukeje, Joselyn Dumas, Joke Silva, Chris Attoh, Nikki Samonas, Blossom Chukwujekwu and Adjetey Annan.
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