Before ‘Hey You’, Timini Egbuson’s last theatrical release was Dr Sid’s ‘Order of Things’ where he played the younger brother to a video game developer. This time, he’s the tech bro. Meanwhile, Tope Olowoniyan who played his love interest in Sid’s directorial debut is here as his unruly boss. The beauty of this is how both roles offer a sharp contrast; whether by design or by the actor’s range.
‘Hey You’ Review: The Plot
In ‘Hey You’, Timini, playing Abel, is a timid bespectacled graphics designer. He draws too. However, as sharp and edgy as he looks, he doesn’t seem to be in on the ladies. So, he resorts to an adult live cam website where he could pay for an adult performance while he jerks off to the cam model.
The model here is Efe Irele as Bianca; who moonlights between baking, offering child care, and adult entertainment. Both of them continues to hide their identity online until they met in person and started to like each other too.The story then explores the thin line between love, lust, and our common prejudice as a society.
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‘Hey You’ Review: Story and Character Development
With this premise, Director, Uyoyou Adia – prominently known for her work on ‘Charge and Bail’, tells a story that holds up a mirror to the propriety of the things humans do in the starkness of the dark. The screenplay sets you off on a bold attempt to dwell on the intricacy of sexual desires and display same on the big screen. I saw the movie at the Silverbird cinema at ICM, Ikeja and heard many people around groaning at the sight of a Timini reaching out for his manhood for self-pleasure. I however didn’t feel the same impulse or hear the groans with Efe Irele propped up as a barbie; not even at the scene of Bianca’s birthday party which was stuffed with enough strippers.It suggest to me that we have successfully explored the feminine nudity on screen as much as to become commonplace but not the same can be said with men. And this is why stories like this become important to tell. Adia who has screenplay credits of the film wrote a couple of moments yelling at us to get familiar with masculine nudity on the big screen. Meanwhile, Timini covets those moments as his and his acting gave them to him. His depictions of those scenes were far away from being caricatures; so much it makes you wonder how often he’s used to self-pleasure, off reels.
‘Hey You’ Review: Cinematography and Color
The win, however goes to cinematographer, Barnabas Emodi, who deploys loads of close-up shots to capture the intimacy of those moments and for the entire film at large. Whether it is Bianca with her erotic dances, her many viewers on the adult live cam platform or Abel with his penile self-pleasure actions, with the right shots, Emodi ensures we don’t lose track of the intimacy and eroticism of the film.
When aided by effective color grading of the film with credits given to Niyi Akinmolayan for that; you see a sharp contrast between the real and the reel worlds. Akinmolayan extensively uses gradients of pink and blue to glamorize the world of Bianca as a live cam model. Even when she dons less showy costumes, the allure remains in the background. You see a sharp contrast when she steps outside of that world. It’s like building fantasy; a world that offers pleasure and relief, yet it is best kept a secret.So, what happens when this secret is leaked; when the mask falls off? The prejudice sets in. It was first felt when Abel escorts a drunken Bianca to her room which has also been her studio for her live cams. He sees the set he’s been used to on-screen and immediately drops Bianca. She hit the ground with a thud but the focus here is on Abel. For him, there was a moment of eureka between dropping Bianca on the floor and dashing out of the room. It’s fleeting and subtle, yet actor Timini brings it to life in milliseconds reminding us again why he’s one of the finest actors of this moment. Efe Irele also captures all shades of her character whether as Bianca or as Caramel.
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‘Hey You’ Review: The Pitfalls
However, this subtlety works in many places throughout the film yet it remains the reason for its many lows. With screenplay and with directing, Uyoyou Adia focuses more on the quirkiness of showing sexual relations and desires on screen rather than the inherent messaging of the film. In a few instances when she points it out, it’s done with much subtleness that it evades the consciousness of its viewers.
For instance, Bianca suffered attempted rape while on a live show. Her assaulter, Lanre played by Rotimi Salami justifies same with a dialogue along the lines of ‘those kinds of girls are not for keeps’. This is a social construct that defies logic. The film does little to amplify its silliness.
Meanwhile, there’s a central deficit in the plot and character development for Bianca. Uyoyou Adia wants us to believe that this is a character with self-righteousness at her core. However, we really don’t understand why she took to adult entertainment. In one scene, she says she is doing it for the kids in the Montessori she works with, who her facing eviction from the building they use. But, that reason doesn’t sound ingenious. In any case, long-time boyfriend, Habib, essayed by Seyi Awolowo suggests that she’s been on to this for a while. So, why exactly?
This lack of a strong raison d’etre deprives the story and the character the emotional depth which the audience can identify with. It also explains why the social messaging of the film in the prejudice towards all forms of transactional sexual acts, comes off quite feeble, too subtle and unable to stake a hold on the audience.
Nonetheless, ‘Hey You’ attempts to entertain you and it does succeed in that. It revels in its quirkiness, rightly so. Its climax is a classic Bollywood reference. Bianca is getting married to Habib, – in one of the almost properly done Nikkah ceremonies in Nollywood films in recent times, by the way – then, Abel shows up; calls out to Bianca. Then, in classic Bollywood fashion, leaving the groom behind, she runs to him in her wedding dress. They hug. They kiss and rain starts to fall; that too at night. The scene is scored in the background by a romantic song.
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It is epic Bollywood wedding disruption pattern with the lover boy showing up in the middle of a priest’s recitation and yelling the most audacious dialogue ever written in cinematic history, ‘yeh shaadi nahi ho sakti’ [this marriage can’t happen].
It is silly yet made everyone laugh in the theatre where I saw the film. And I guess that’s what Writer and Director, Uyoyou Adia wanted to do with this film.
By the way, can someone tell her a graphics designer isn’t the same as a software engineer in a tech team; barely can tweak a software. And a start-up needs more than a founding team of a finance, marketing and graphics designer. A software engineer is the soul of the team. Hey you, thank you.
‘Hey You’ is showing in a cinema near you.
Written and Directed: Uyoyou Adia
Cinematography: Barnabas ‘Barny’ Emodi
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Lead Cast: Timini Egbuson, Efe Irele, Stan Nze, Seyi Awolowo