The Narrow Path introduces itself as a simple Yoruba movie. Set in an orthodox town in Yorubaland with characters that look and feel conservative, it establishes its general appearance without much overt set pieces. But The Narrow Path is far from simple or narrow in its overarching concept as the movie is a dramatic celebration of womanhood, voicing itself through the Yoruba ideology of gender morality.
Adapted from The Virgin by Bayo Adebowale and directed by Tunde Kelani, The Narrow Path is set in a small village called Orita, a name that can be loosely translated to mean the crossroad in English. This is indicative of a melting pot.
The story revolves around Awero (Sola Asedeko) as she comes of age and is expected to choose between two suitors; the clumsy hunter, Odejimi (Seyi Fasuyi) and Lapede (Ayo Badmus), a rich gold trader. The love triangle sparks a conflict between two villages and pushes them to the brink of war.
As the story progresses, one gets covert insight into the thoughts and mind state of the characters through dream sequences and visions that switch colours and tones to convey a dreamlike expression.
With faux-natural performance from Bukky Wright (Abigail), Segun Adefila (Dauda), Joke Muyiwa (Awero’s Mother) and more, The Narrow Path echoes the Yoruba reality with startling precision.
The mixture of English and Yoruba language — in dialogues — does stand out at first, as it feels contradictory to the traditional set costumes and set design. But one soon falls in tune with the fluid switch from one language to the other. The profusion of proverbs in the conversations eases the viewer further into the narrative, effectively eliminating the jarring effect caused by the presence of a foreign tongue in a familiar setting.
The theme song by Beautiful Nubia is fitting. The musical scores and down-to-earth soundtracks also play crucial roles in the cinematic success of the movie.
The Narrow Path wraps up with a short message: “Dedicated to all African women who, often marginalised, play peace-keeping roles in traditional communities…” As one follows Awero through the rites and rituals that lead to her wedding, you become aware of the crucial role played by women in our society and perhaps how unsung and uncelebrated they are of this role. And so, the movie challenges itself to fulfil this task — of celebrating African Women — which it achieves in sterling colours.