The Price

Movies Reviews The Price
The Price

Seyi Ogunde is a good guy. Mostly. He’s just under a lot of pressure.

A first generation Nigerian-American with a Harvard education and a Wall Street shark tank job, Seyi (Ami Ameen) is dealing with the usual quarter-century stuff, really: He’s keen to prove himself in a very harsh world, his codependent family are a handful, his boss keeps taking credit for his work so he can’t get ahead, there’s never enough money, enough love, enough recognition, enough time. He’s running low on Adderal. The nice girl he met at that party has a boyfriend. His dad’s had a stroke and for backstory reasons Seyi ain’t all that sympathetic to the man. But there are bills, and a growing need to feel impressive, and an upstream swim, and eventually Mister Nice Guy does something a bit dishonest at work.

The Price, written and directed by Anthony Onah, is an intelligent, thoughtful debut. It’s a Wall Street movie, yes, but not. The engine here isn’t exactly greed; it’s denial, or at least, attempted denial. Seyi loves his family but also feels smothered by them, perhaps a bit embarrassed by the. He’s struggling to individuate. He’s conspicuously Black in a privileged white-dude world and it’s clear he’s in a place where he has to work twice as hard for half the recognition so it’s little wonder he’s abusing ADHD meds. And knowing his manager relentlessly steals his ideas, it’s not that surprising that he goes just a little off the rez to get the Boss’s attention with a tip he’s obtained in confidence from a friend. He meets a girl he really likes but quickly finds things are not going smoothly and that it has something to do with the suddenly escalating pattern of lies and evasions about his work, his family, his entire inner world. Liz (Lucy Griffiths) isn’t terribly interested in being evaded and lied to. And the tension is building at home too, as his family is expecting him to bankroll a trip to Nigeria for the entire family that Seyi doesn’t want to have anything to do with it. There is sketchiness afoot, and it has no choice but to crater. And it does.

While The Price certainly is not a bad film—the story leans hard on the acting abilities of its protagonist and luckily Ameen is more than up to the task—there are just aspects of it that are … underwhelming or a little pat. Seyi’s animosity toward his father and alienation from his mother and sister are real and raw and rendered wonderfully. The big revelation of what’s behind it is jarringly small-potatoes—for the amount of baggage he’s dragging around, I was expecting something a more extensive and permanently devastating. The ending is frustratingly predictable. The central identity struggle Seyi endures is a compelling one but it is also a very common one, and reconciling one’s immigrant-family identity with one’s upwardly-mobile-Manhattan-banker identity is … well, there are not a lot of twists there.

I like Enis Rotthoff’s score quite a lot; production design is sleek and appealing, and there are zero lemons in the cast, which is good because without some great acting this film might not have had much to keep people interested. It’s polished and decidedly un-flabby, but there’s really not a single story point you can’t see coming. Does a reconciling-your-split-identity picture have to be surprising? I suppose not, but I kind of wish this film had gotten its hands a little dirtier. It’s competent and predictable. This might well be the freshman effort of a director who will make a lot of really, really good films. This one, ironically for a film whose protagonist is a financier, could have benefitted from a little more risk-tolerance.

Director: Anthony Onah(s)
Writer: Anthony Onah(s)
Starring: Ami Ameen, Lucy Griffiths, Michael Hyatt, Souleymane Sy Savane, Hope Olaide Wilson(s)
Release Date: November 9, 2017

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