Director: Efetobore Ayeteni
Producer: Daisy Oboh
Screenplay: Ifesinachi Okoli-Okpagu
Cast: Kiki Omeili, Seun Akindele, Mary Lazarus, Wole Ojo, Chinonso Young and Toyin Aimakhu
We have heard of spiteful mother in-laws that will prefer their sons remaining single and instead dedicating their adulthood to providing their mother’s need and dancing to her tune. We have also heard of mother in-laws that are eager to dictate to their son and his wife how they should run their lives; we have also watched these situations in films. However, it is rare to watch films with spiteful sister in-laws, “What makes you Tick” gives us a different take on marriage and family rivalry.
It is a story of an emotionally detached radio personality; she rejects a proposal the same day she is supposed to anchor a show on marriage. When she starts talking to her listeners, it inspires her to share her own story.
Nosa (Seun Akindele) and Isi (Kiki Omeili) are school teachers. Isi has a dream to further her education at the post-graduate level but love gets in the way, she marries Nosa and he promises to sponsor her post-graduate education in the future, when their children are fully grown. When this happens, his sisters pay a visit to destroy the peace and stability in the family. Nosa does not know how to strike a balance and so he serves his sisters over his wife. He excuses their excesses and instead asks his wife to accommodate them and endure. Their marital problems reach a point where in our present age, Isi should ask for a divorce but she lived in the 90’s and women at the time were taught tolerance even while faced with death and so she stays with Nosa after he cheats, after he emotional abuses her and physically attempts to abuse her. The person that shares this story with us is their daughter, Ose now Cassandra (Chinonso Young), the issue of her childhood has affected her so much, and it causes her fear of attachment, even with her co-worker, he refers to her as “Angry woman.” That anger is a reflection of her teenage years.
The point of the film is not to discredit marriage or in-laws but to explore the conversation of the effects of unhappy and unstable parents on the child.
Ose and her brother watch in silence when their parents bicker, their silence is a reaction of how they feel and the family they are a part of. The fluctuating mood of the parents here has a big effect on their daughter; she grows up with a strong sense of rejection for the institution of marriage. She has learnt a lesson from her mother and marriage is not something she wants to experience. The situation of her childhood creates a severe destructive pattern in her; she has had a nightmare about the situation through her life. What happens to her as a teenager further complicates her adulthood. Her mother lived the pain but she lives an extension of that pain. There are a thousand books that promise to teach the right way to parent but “What Makes you Tick” is an illustration of the problem we do not acknowledge in Nigeria.
Have you ever wondered how boys grow to exhibit traits of abuse while women are mostly subservient? It is a learned culture, it starts in the family. Boys grow keeping tab of how their fathers behave and they pick from it, girls also learn subservience from their mothers. They watch her, if she does not challenge abuse, they will grow to accept abuse too. When women stay in abusive relationships and claim they stayed because of their children, they do the children greater harm and “What Makes you Tick” proves this.
The dialogue is rich and as much as it ponders on a problem, “What makes you Tick” will make you laugh. It is filled with humorous actions and dialogue, it will make you laugh but you will remain conscious of the problem. Mary Lazarus is perfectly cast as the tongue lashing Omoh and she does a fantastic job. Kiki Omeili interprets Isi with grace and Seun Akindele is a consummate professional as Nosa.
Despite the illuminating and powerful storyline and dialogue, a slight error in continuity distracts us, Cassandra states at the beginning of the story that it happens in the 90’s, but Omoh uses a phone. Isi uses a phone and even Nosa has a phone. Phones were rare commodities in those days but it makes its way to the story and even if Isi and Nosa are able to afford it, Omoh who depends on her brother for a livelihood should not be with a phone. This situation could have been saved if Cassandra did not mention that it was in the 90’s. This does not take from the story though, it is a regular story of spiteful in-laws but this time it does not insist on a pattern of redeeming a marriage or making peace with in-laws, it has a more intense purpose and it is the sanity and the health of children. From Cassandra we learn a lot.
Have you ever thought of the situation of children that have grown in abusive homes, children that have experienced lack of peace throughout childhood? Some of them are unable to grow out of the situation.
In “What Makes You Tick” the savior is Isi. She is ignorant that her daughter has suffered as a result of her past with her husband, she learns of this after hearing her tell the story to her listeners on radio. It is the first time she opens up to her daughter, it is only then that Cassandra is able to accept marriage, it is only then she sets on a path towards freedom.
Films are important tools of learning for our society, the more we see films that make us tick, the more we understand the situations in life. What makes you Tick is an important film.
About the Author
Rejoice Abutsa is a 22-year-old aspiring Filmmaker and a big dreamer. She’s also a ‘Theatre and film’ arts graduate from the University of Jos, Nigeria.