Netflix’s Valentine’s Day offering, “A Soweto Love Story,” is a vibrant glimpse into the modern South African culture in the neat form of a comforting rom-com. Director Rolie Nikiwe takes a story rooted in South Africa and makes it universally germane. “A Soweto Love Story” is a blend of everything South African and that one question that plagues the pool of global parents:  “Why are my children not getting into a romantic relationship?”

“A Soweto Love Story” is a remake in its spirits. When the end credits roll, you will see that the film is based on “A Naija Christmas” by Kunle Afolayan and Kemi Adesoye. You would think that it might be a book, as most people would be inclined to do when they see the words ‘Based on.’ However, weirdly, it is based on another Netflix film. A recent one, at that. “A Naija Christmas” is a 2021 Netflix film that introduces the idiosyncratically hilarious plot device, which is the premise of “A Soweto Love Story.”

Just like “A Naija Christmas,” “A Soweto Love Story” features a mother, Bongekile (Duduzile Ngcobo), who is tired of the other mothers of her church parading their children’s marriages. She has three sons, and none of them are showing any sign of ‘settling down’ with a good girl. Her hope of seeing grandchildren is diminishing with every passing day. So, she pulls out the only big gun she has. She promises to give her lavish house to the son who will marry first. And this has to be done before the New Year. And Christmas is already knocking at the door. So, the boys only have a couple of weeks.

Using this plot device of “A Naija Christmas,” “A Soweto Love Story” focuses more on the love stories that are eluding the three brothers. Yes, there is a bit of inter-sibling rivalry and subsequent scheming. However, it focuses more on the three brothers’ individually different struggles with love. Sandile (Lunga Shabalala) is a music composer whose last hit came a long time ago. He has a steady girlfriend of six years, Sente (Motsoaledi Setumo). But his nonchalant attitude to their romantic future and occasional flirting with every other girl make it difficult for Sente to commit to this relationship for life.

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A Soweto Love Story
A still from A Soweto Love Story (2024) streaming on Netflix

Menzi (Sparky Xulu), another brother, is highly strung and often rude. He owns a restaurant but could not keep his head chef due to his behavior. Enter his new chef, Dina (Mamodibe Ramodibe). A bold, chaos-embracing, Ducati-riding tattooed girl. Could this girl be the answer for Menzi? Lastly, Sky (Ray Neo Buso), the boutique owner. His brother and his mother have put him down as gay. His flamboyant clothing and expressive gestures are the supposedly dead giveaways. Sky has always denied this, though. Could he be telling the truth?

This intriguing premise allows “A Soweto Love Story” to remain entertainingly funny and warm. It is predictable and has all the cliches a good rom-com has. From a journey of self-discovery to a last-ditch airport run. But director Nikiwe made good use of them and produced a comforting rom-com tinted peek into the modern South African culture. It even has a humorously swift twist in one of the brothers’ love stories.

A good rom-com is driven by the performances of its pairs. “A Soweto Love Story” has two of them. Shabalala and Setumo’s Sandile-Sente, and Sparky Xulu and Ramodibe’s Menzi-Dina. The cast does their job well. Shabalala is childishly earnest and conflicted, while Setumo’s firmly constructed Sente makes them quite the duo. Same for Xulu’s neatly measured portrayal of the highly-strung Menzi, who is opened up by Ramodibe’s charismatic turn as Dina. The supporting cast, especially that of Ngcobo’s Ma and Neo Buso’s Sky, put the comedy in the ‘com’ of rom-com. Not to forget Skhumba Hlophe’s hilarious turn as the debt collector/music entrepreneur Lunga.

“A Soweto Love Story” is released on Netflix as a Valentine’s Day special. But, weirdly, it is such a Christmas film. Not just because it is set during the times of Christmas and the New Year but because it exudes the same comfort and fuzzy nature through its depiction of love and familial values that we mostly look for when we watch a Christmas film. I guess it is a winner for Netflix, as it can be rewatched in Christmas as well, without needing to make another remake of the story to cater to the Christmas audience.

Read More: 15 Must-See Coming of Age Films of 2020

A Soweto Love Story (2024) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Letterboxd
The Cast of A Soweto Love Story (2024) Movie: Lunga Shabalala, Duduzile Ngcobo, Sparky Xulu
A Soweto Love Story (2024) Movie Genre: Romance/Comedy, Runtime: 1h 41m
Where to watch A Soweto Love Story

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