Isn’t it time we indulged in some good old family fun? We’ve been navigating the Netflix universe for a while now and, let’s be honest, it’s exhausting. We survived Bandersnatch, just about have our heads around Bird Box and don’t quite know what to make of the troubling narrative in YOU. Now it’s time to direct your weary head to Lionheart, a light-hearted comedy and your reintroduction to a whole other, less distressing, world of entertainment.
Save for its pleasantly straightforward narrative and lack of psychologically harrowing plot points (our sincerest thank yous), this Netflix original is a big deal. Lionheart is the streaming giant’s first ever Nigerian film. I agree, it's strange to be celebrating such an achievement this far into Netflix's reign. It will feel even stranger to those of us for whom African cinema is already a big presence in the family's entertainment schedule (ie. playing in the background of every aunty and uncle's living room if they were lucky enough to have a Sky subscription), but it marks a step in Netflix's broadening of international and foreign language programming. Yes, it's a really good thing.
Lionheart stars Genevieve Nnaji, who has upwards of 100 acting credits in Nigeria’s booming entertainment industry and also directs the film. She plays Adaeze, an ambitious and strait-laced businesswoman who is a director at her father’s successful transit company. She's very good at her job, gets up at 5am to go jogging and doesn't bat an eyelid at having to descend into the middle of a chaotic fight outside the office to mediate and move people on. Don't worry, her father, Ernest Obiagu, is very aware of how great an asset Adaeze is to the business, and his colleagues aren't shy of reminding him so. After singing his daughter’s praises at a board meeting, her dad suffers a heart attack and the future of the family business is thrown into question. See where this is going?
It's pretty clear that Adaeze is the best candidate to step into her father's shoes and take the helm while he recovers, but it's obviously never that simple. Instead, Obiagu announces that his brother Godswill will take his place. Echoing what we're all thinking, Adaeze suspects she's been sidelined because she's the only woman on the board and her father doesn't think she could handle that much responsibility, which her mother says isn't true at all. Obiagu's hiring of his brother was all part of a big ulterior motive, apparently.
Of course, uncle Godswill is the complete opposite of sensible Adaeze. He's impulsive and keeps his emotions simmering at the surface while she is methodical, refined and a big fan of following the rules laid out in front of her. And so we're met with the familiarly wholesome teaching point at the core of Lionheart's narrative – seeing each other's differences as an advantage. All that nice stuff about the importance of family, learning to compromise and two heads being better than one, with love thrown in for good measure, too.
As it turns out, the company has run up huge, inconceivable debts that Obiagu had managed to keep secret until he fell ill. It quickly becomes apparent that the whole operation will collapse if they don't find a way to pay it back. What follows is a pleasant and heartfelt back and forth between niece and uncle as they try, fail and try again to get on for the sake of the business. There are a few gentle laughs and Instagram caption-worthy proverbs to stumble across, but most of all, enjoy the fact that you'll come out the other side feeling a little bit better about the world, for the first time in your recent Netflix viewing history.
Lionheart is available to stream on Netflix now