A Nigerian Netflix Original Caught Between Two Genres
Nigerian Netflix Original Lionheart can’t quite decide what sort of film it wants to be. There’s some themes around feminism, equality and family values here but none of them are really fleshed out enough to hit home as hard as they should. There’s tiny snippets of humour but not enough to be classed as a comedy while the dramatic moments aren’t all that hard hitting. What we’re left with then is a perfectly serviceable African film that happily plods along a formulaic road to mediocrity. Next to other films that have done this sort of story more effectively, Lionheart feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.
The story itself begins in the heart of Nigeria with a bus company called Lionheart. When a gang threaten the livelihood of her father’s company, Adaeze springs into action and braves a group of thugs before heading back to the company for a presentation. Only, things take a turn for the worst as her father suffers a heart attack and puts her and her Uncle in charge of the company in his absence. After learning of Lionheart’s eye-watering debt, the two family members work together to try to fix the issue and pull the company out of financial despair. What follows is a tale that sees both characters learning to work together while overcoming sexism in a male-dominated world.
For the most part Lionheart is pretty formulaic with its tale, including the usual moral dilemma for our main protagonist as she questions her integrity and resolve as she’s beaten down time and again by the system. This inevitably leads to her making a comeback with a heartwarming, triumphant finale but this predictable ending plays out exactly as you’d expect from this sort of film.
Despite the plot familiarity, Lionheart’s characters do well and both Adaeze and her Uncle play off each other nicely with some good chemistry. Genevieve Nnaji does well with her role too, with just enough resolve and fragility to feel like an empowered woman frustrated by an unjust system. It’s also worth pointing out that Lionheart does a great job capturing the African spirit with its various establishing shots, showing off the beautiful country of Nigeria.
Adding to this authenticity is the inclusion of dual-languages spoken with half the film told in English and the other half in the native tongue. Due to the four different official languages it’s hard to say whether these moments were spoken in Hausa, Yoruba, Fula or Igbo, but it’s a nice inclusion nonetheless.
It’s a shame then that Lionheart isn’t as memorable as it perhaps should be. Its themes are relevant and certainly resonate for the time we live in but the execution just isn’t there. Lionheart certainly has its moments but these are too few and far between to make it a compelling drama or comedy you’re likely to remember for years to come. For a straight forward story, this is worth checking out but those going into this African film expecting something more profound and hard hitting akin to Beasts Of No Nation may well be left wanting.