Netflixable? Don’t cross your imaginary lover, not if she’s named “Sylvia”

Every subscriber’s “around the world with Netflix” experience is going to be littered with…litter.

So it’s no surprise than in dropping in on several Nigerian films (“Nollywood”) in recent months, I’d eventually get around to one that’s unwatchable.

Tedious, generic and soap opera slow, “Sylvia” is about a man haunted — literally — by the imaginary girlfriend he’s had since childhood.

The premise may be a bit “out there,” but considering the supernatural drivel Hollywood summons up on a weekly basis, that’s no reason to write this one off.

But from the funereal opening, where we meet Richard (Chris Attoh) as “an old madman,” hiding out in an asylum, “Sylvia” is a clunker — slower than molasses dripping in the Arctic.

That framing device sets the tone. Every line is painstakingly performed as if English isn’t a common language in Nigeria and everybody has to sound the words out phonetically.

And such lines! They’re bad enough to be repeated in that “You mean to tell me” explain-it-to-the-dummies-in-the-audience way TV soap operas perfected.

“How could you say that? After everything, how could you honestly say that?”

And say it twice?

That’s the adult Sylvia (Zainab Balogun) reacting to the news that after residing in Richard’s dreams, day and night, all through his childhood, college and early adult years, that he’s “met someone,” and that someone is real — Gbemi (Ini Dima Okojie).

He may be a great success headed for marriage and a life of happiness, so he thinks. But Sylvia has her ways. Never mess with a Dream Lover Scorned.

There are limp office jokes here, hallucinations in the gym, “temptations” and trip-ups taking many forms. Anything to prevent this “real” marriage.

None of it amounts to anything and every single moment drags like a movie played at one third speed.

Director Daniel Oriahi (“Taxi Driver: Oko Ashewo,”” “For My Girls”) has been around long enough to know something about pacing. It’s as if he set out to imitate a genre and he and his cast had to do it in slow and tentative baby steps, lest they stumble and fall.

They did, mainly by slow-walking this thin thriller, first scene to last.

You make allowances for other cultures and their storytelling conventions when you watch a foreign film. This? This film “Sylvia” is unwatchable.


MPAA Rating: TV-MA

Cast: Zainab Balogun, Chris Attoh, Ini Dima Okojie, Udoka Oyeka and Ijeoma Grace Agu

Credits:Directed by Daniel Oriahi, script by Vanessa Kanu. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:44

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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