A Fateful Exchange (Another review of Phone Swap)

Kunle Afolayan ups his own game with his latest movie, Phone Swap. The film, starring Wale Ojo (Meet The Adebanjos, Rage) and Nse Ikpe Etim (Mr and Mrs) has already proved itself a winner with the audience, bashing big-budget Hollywood productions at the local box office.

The comic drama, which also stars Joke Silva, Chika Okpala, Hafiz Oyetoro and Ada Ameh in supporting roles, is the story of Akin (Ojo) and Mary (Ikpe Etim). In the face of professional trauma and looming family crises, Akin and Mary both have to travel to sort their lives out. A run-in at the airport leads to the erroneous swapping of phones linking their lives together not for good, initially.

Akin finds himself in Owerri, where Mary should be, while Mary lands in Abuja and is soon on the way to representing Akin at a crucial company meeting.  Akin’s task is not easier. He is caught in the drama surrounding Mary’s sister Cynthia (Ameh) and her troubled marriage. Cynthia’s marital travails provide another comic sub-plot to the main action involving Akin and Mary.   

We follow the lead actors as they try to adjust to life in each other’s stead. Mary moves away from being the eager, naïve fashion designer, who finds out her boyfriend has a secret, to the strong female character bold enough to talk back to the arrogant Akin. On the other hand, the lead male settles into a weekend sleeping on the veranda and working on the farm – a life away from his usual ‘world’.

Phone Swap is two hours of innocent fun. Not so innocent sometimes, especially when a fight breaks out involving the couple’s angry exes; but funny all the same. In this flick, Afolayan clearly delineates from his usual arty style for the more commercial genre of the comic drama with a romantic bent. He succeeds with it, especially with the help of a multi-talented cast and crew. Little wonder Pat Nebo’s work on the film clinched the AMAA 2012 prize for Achievement in Production Design. (Acting-wise though, there is the exception of the male air steward on Akin’s flight and a Glo Customer care officer, whose poor pronunciations and acting skill could easily put one off the on-screen action.)

The film boasts a memorable sequence of events. The eloquence with which the actors deliver their lines and embody their characters is largely alien to the usual – to use the tag in a loose sense – ‘Nollywood’ productions. There is no disappointment from the tested hands: the renowned comic, Oyetoro never fails to elicit a laugh from the audience with his antics.

The script by Kemi Adesoye is well-formed and runs fluidly. One can’t help but wonder though if the story would evolve the way it did (or if there would be any story at all), without the following coincidences: Akin and Mary both use the same Blackberry phone model, both have colleagues named ‘Alex,’ and the company chairman is not who it turns out to be (no spoilers intended.)

Overall, it is easier to accept that these coincidences make the story and view them as essential to the film’s romantic (what else?) outcome. Phone Swap’s story is a good one, not uncommon to Hollywood love stories but rare in Nigerian film. As is expected, a love story blossoms between Akin and Mary and the happy ending comes as no surprise. The twists in-between though, make it worth the ride.

Hopefully its success will not spurn a chain of ungainly spoofs and pretenders as the industry is notorious for. 


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