A rubber band, if stretched too far, ultimately hurts the one who is stretching it. It is probably the best way to describe director Kunle Afolayan’s Anikulapo. The one stretching the rubber band is the movie itself, where the ambition is sky-high. In fact, the director himself has publicly compared it to something as celebrated as “Game of Thrones” with a Nigerian twist. Streaming on Netflix, this Nollywood movie is an epic fantasy tale of the downfall of an ambitious individual with the infusion of Yoruba folklore.
Anikulapo (2022) Movie Synopsis
In Yoruba culture, the mythical bird Akala has the power to resurrect a person who has died before their time.
A CGI-clad smokey raven-like creature, obviously the Akala bird, resurrects a battered and beaten man who wakes up shocked and surprised.
In the flashback, we see the same man, an Aso-ofi weaver called Saro (Kunle Remi), arriving in the Kingdom of Oyo with dreams in his eyes and humility on his face. He is taken under the wings of Awarun (Sola Sobowale), a woman who is running a pottery business. Awarun initially seems like a kind middle-aged woman who advises Saro to work under her for a while to save some money to start his own weaving business. But there is another side of the coin; deep at night, Awarun makes sexual advances to Saro, and even though momentarily shocked, Saro happily reciprocates.
Things get complicated when Saro develops a crush on Awarun but sees her with another man. It gets even worse when Awarun tells a heartbroken Saro that her need is only sexual and he should stay within his boundaries. However, a more humane, compassionate side of Awarun is revealed when she eventually makes up with Saro and tells him that she wishes for a younger woman to marry a handsome young man like him so that he gets all the love and respect and, most essentially, an everyday life.
On the other side of the Kingdom, queen Arolake (Bimbo Ademoye) is terribly unhappy and sad. Married to the older King and hated by all the other wives of the King, especially the most aged queen Wojuola, her life is nothing but a pit of misery. Her only ally is probably Wojuola’s daughter Omowunmi (Eyiyemi Afolayan, who also happens to be the director’s daughter), who is almost the same age as her.
Meanwhile, Saro’s weaving business takes off, and the news of fine quality Aso-ofi clothes travels to the palace of the King, where the women invite him to see and buy his clothes. An elated Saro goes to the King’s palace and impresses everyone. At night, Arolake sneaks out of the palace and meets Saro, and the two are instantly attracted to each other. A lustful affair starts between them, and as they plan to elope and start a new life outside the Oyo kingdom, Saro gets caught and eventually sentenced to death.
Hiding from an angry mob behind a bunch of bushes, a horrified Arolake sees Saro beaten to death by the crowd. As soon as the crowd leaves, the Akala comes to Saro and resurrects him, and right at this moment, Arolake, with her presence of mind, steals the power of resurrection, which is a mysterious black pouch.
A resurrected Saro and Arolake soon find shelter in the Ojumo village, whereupon Arolake insistence Saro uses the power of resurrection to bring a little boy back from the dead. The news of Saro being the Anikalupo (which means he carries death in his pocket) spreads like wildfire, and thanks to that, Saro soon turns into almost a messiah-like figure for the villagers. Even the Ojumo King and his chiefs put Saro on an extremely high pedestal. Only the high priest seems skeptical about Saro’s source of power.
Anikulapo (2022) Ending Explained
Years go by, and Saro’s great fortune seems like a never-ending streak. But for Arolake, things take an ugly turn as Saro takes more wives and procreates with them. Their love fades away, and once a queen and the King’s favorite, Arolake now becomes the barren eldest wife of the “Anikulapo” in a cruel turn of fate.
What happens to Saro in the end?
When the Ojumo king’s only son accidentally dies, Saro is summoned to save him. Blinded by his pride, Saro asks for the hand of the King’s daughter as his payment for the resurrection of the prince. Initially apprehensive and enraged by the audacity of Saro, the King eventually gives in to his demand. But as Saro tries to resurrect the prince, he fails, and after so many desperate attempts, he realizes that he no longer has the power of “Anikulapo.”
Saro’s fate is not clearly revealed, but going by the final scene where a beaten Akala bird visits battered Saro, it can very well be assumed that his prideful boasting attitude and then failure to deliver on his promise didn’t go well with the King and people of Ojumo.
What happens to Arolake?
Upon hearing Saro’s wish to marry the daughter of the King in exchange for the prince’s life, Arolake can’t take it anymore and decides to leave silently.
But before leaving, she removes the sand from Akala’s pouch, which Saro uses to resurrect people. After years of neglect and mistreatment by Saro, Arolake’s action seems justified, especially considering she is the main reason for Saro getting the power in the first place. It gives the movie a fitting ending and leaves the audience with a simple message.
What is the final explanation of the ending?
With great power comes great responsibility. But Saro was not responsible enough to handle the power he had. Blinded by his pride and perverted nature, the humble, doe-eyed Saro eventually turned into this absolutely despicable human being who got what he deserved.
As the Akala bird said during his resurrection that he doesn’t deserve to have his life back, Saro indeed turned out to be an ungrateful man who took Arolake for granted.
Anikulapo (2022) Review
This story could have worked so much better with a tighter script and smart editing where the movie fails miserably. Especially the writing is so horrid that some of the character’s choices don’t make any sense. Awarun taunts Saro regarding using him only for her sexual fulfillment, but the next moment we see her being absolutely compassionate and sympathetic towards him.
The biggest disappointment is probably the character arc of Arolake. Shown as a repressed but fierce female at first, the writer decides to turn herself into someone who, in fact, starts to regret the miserable life she has left behind. It is an injustice to possibly the best character in the narrative, which damages the movie to a great extent, and also makes it problematic enough. Of course, it is ultimately a director’s choice to represent a character in their own movie exactly how they want to, but when the ultimate result is this much blasphemous, ways for constructive criticism should be made as well.
Nothing much to say about the loud acting from the cast and the random use of songs to move the narrative ahead, as neither of these necessarily hurt the movie further. The only two genuinely praiseworthy things are the ambition to mount the film on a huge scale and the soothing cinematography.
At the end of the day, this is a huge letdown. A poorly made movie about a really unlikeable person is how this should be remembered or best forgotten.