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Richard Mulindwa’s Only Son wins hearts

On Friday, judging by the way you may look at it, Richard Mulindwa’s Only Son managed to get the public in on what filmmakers are up to.

It was one of the few local movie premieres that attracted almost the entire media clan – making it a contrast to the many premieres held at Theatre La Bonita and the National theatre.

Bobby Tamale the lead character

It had the romp, hype and excitement that usually steal film’s shine. Maybe the location too played a role in the romp. This was the first independent Ugandan film premiering at Serena hotel’s plush Victoria hall, after way too many international jazz and Bebe Cool concerts being held here.

However, just like many Ugandan events, Only Son’s premiere too had event management issues. For instance, it started out as an anticipated film premiere, progressed into a documentary screening session, then the actual premiere before turning into a fundraiser.

Only Son may easily go down as Uganda’s best film of 2016. Technically, the sound was superb, despite a few scenes where the ambiance was misplaced. The lighting was acceptable and the picture composition was at its best – it is like there was no bad shot.

The film is about a one Davis whose father loses everything because of a wrong deal. This sees the family lose all its fancy lifestyle, the cars, house and credit cards.

The worst happens when Davis is dumped by his girlfriend after he couldn’t pay for a meal in a fancy restaurant, after pleas for her to pay don’t work out.

Davis is forced to retreat to his ancestral village where he ekes out a living and probably understand the value of life. Quite a relatable story, though borrowed. The theme of the film was much too similar to Hollywood’s 2006 drama The Ultimate Gift where the lead character inherited his grandfather’s fortune, but only after completing a number of tasks.

Just like the Only Son, Jason in The Ultimate Gift is a spoilt underachiever who has never had to genuinely work. In the Hollywood hit, his tests revolve around friends, money and work, among other things. We see all these playing out in the Ugandan picture, with Davis working with girls to collect scrap metal and fighting to make new friends after all his older friends ditch him.

Mariam Ndagire (C) arrives for the premiere

Though this can’t pass as a case of plagiarism, it can be argued that the movie was only written by a person that was inspired by The Ultimate Gift; the real problems of the film lie within the scripting, acting and story boarding.

Much of the film dialogue gets you feeling like it was either half-baked or the screenplay writer was miserably bad. You could feel the actors improvise to bring sense to a scene, making matters even worse. Bobby Tamale, the producer, who mysteriously cast himself in the lead role, is a pathetic actor.

His character, Davis, was a mirror of a Kardashian-on-set, lacking any sort of emotions, poise or accessibility. He failed to invite us to his two worlds of riches and rags, such that we ended up never feeling his pain, yet the guy spent over 90 minutes in our faces.

It was not until Nisha Kalema showed up, almost 20 minutes to the end of the film, that we started connecting with the emotions underlined in the story.

Did she make him better? No, that guy can’t act, but in a way, the audience enjoyed the film. Whether they can sit through it for a second time, that is not for this story to determine, but at least, as the last person left Serena hotel on Friday, it was clear that the Only Son, its shortcomings notwithstanding, had won many hearts.


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