During the COVID-19 lockdown, one of the trends I saw online was how families were tilting towards being shattered because the bonds fastening them are bound to grow slack and loose. The reason proffered for this logic is that most couples are often shielded from the darker side of their spouses due to the wide expanse of time they rather spend at work. Meanwhile, compulsory cohabitation which the lockdown enforces is bound to reveal these unsavoury sides. Being a lover of reels and films, I have always wanted to see this projected in a movie, and I was glad to have come across 37 To Go short film vide Twitter.
37 To Go is a careful projection of the new order of things during the COVID-19 period and afterward, for two lovebirds. The phenomenal acting of Daniel Etim Effiong who plays the character, Dozie and Lota Chukwu as Didie makes this theme more endearing and realistic. Written by the duo of Lota Chukwu and Victor Sanchez Aghahova, and directed by the former, the film wakens its viewers to the burdens of navigating a pandemic-infested relationship, and how these pressures could further weaken or in some cases, strengthen the bonds of marriage amidst a lockdown.
The beauty of 37 To Go starts from its title, which at first glance, has no relative depth to the theme of the film. But a title holds the meaning to everything, and it is no different for this project – a couple who has promised to spend 40 years together finds the bonds of their relationship weakened after 3 years of being together, and this is a source of worry to both. With 37 years to navigate the strains of the marriage, the couple, especially Didie is embroiled in worry of how she is to prevent the marriage from descending into the abyss, whilst also striving to be supportive of her partner and retaining her own sanity and happiness.The lockdown heightens every strain, but I admire the confidence of Dozie in the constant reassurances he gives to his partner that things were going to work. Despite all the excesses from Didie, Dozie is the quintessence of an understanding man – one who acknowledges that his partner is struggling from the strains of work and the pandemic, yet stands firmly by her. It is a very important lesson to the viewers, one that should not go without notice and observance.
The exhibition of gender roles (reversed to depict a new generational shift) – Didie was more preoccupied with office work whilst Dozie was the prevalent house chore partner, depiction of official work and engagements and how love relationships were navigated during the pandemic has a new feel to the way it was characterized, and it makes its message more endearing and relatable to the viewers.
Other subtle thematic were also examined in the film, all striving to propel the movie’s core message. For instance, the strict adherence to the pandemic protocols in-house by the couple – masks worn, clothes burnt after being infected, social distancing maintained – regardless of the stress they underwent and temptations to abandon them to be together, emphasizes the importance of adherence to these protocols for safety and healthy well-being. Also, the couple’s different dispositions to passers-by during their workouts highlight the oddly stark differences in the couple’s situations during the days of the pandemic.
I find the Richard character, who is Didie’s office boss, quite intrusive and uncomfortable to the couple’s romantic stability. But, much credence should be given to Dozie’s understanding; as such overtures might bring about jealousy in switched circumstances. However, Richard’s intrusiveness is explained when it is discovered that Dozie is actually dead, presumably from his COVID infection.Despite the movie’s brilliance, it is bedevilled with its share of misses. For example, COVID protocols dictates that infected persons are kept in isolation, preferably in government-approved facilities. However, the couple somehow managed, in clear contraventions of the aforementioned, to keep their seclusions to their bedrooms. This felt completely out of place, because the couple would share the same bed after the infection wears off, and there is no telling where the infection might have been latched on in the room.
This might also explain why Dozie also caught on to the infection, which is more surprising since he is more conscious of the protocols, and refrained from going outdoors since the initiation of the lockdown. Also, I find the camera shots during Didie’s monologue quite inadequate, as they do not fully project the emotions embedded in that scene.
Still, 37 To Go is a realistic portrayal of the navigation of bonds, love and relationships during the pandemic, and a brilliant exhibition of artistry and filmmaking; that too in a short film. The fact that the film ends on a note of optimism passes the message of endurance and humanity, and it is a recommended watch for catching a glimpse of the varying Nigerian experience during the COVID 19 pandemic.
37 To Go is currently streaming on YouTube.
Written By: Lota Chukwu and Victor Sanchez Aghahova
Directed By: Lota Chukwu
Lead Cast: Lota Chukwu, Daniel Etim Effiong, Bamike Adebuniyan