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THE WEEKEND at Tribeca.png

Tribeca Review: 'The Weekend' Is 'Meet The Parents' In Hell

By Jason Adams | Film | June 10, 2024 |

By Jason Adams | Film | June 10, 2024 |


THE WEEKEND at Tribeca.png

The nightmare that is meeting one’s in-laws for the first time has been a boon to storytelling for centuries—where would comedy be without all of those “my mother-in-law” jokes after all? But it’s really come into its own as its own little subgenre of horror over the past several years thanks to a string of stellar flicks about psychotic relatives like You’re Next, Get Out, and Ready or Not. And now we’ve got another deliciously deranged entry, this one coming all the way from Nigeria, with director Daniel Emeke Oriahi’s The Weekend, which aims to give new meaning to the phrase “family dinner.” Prepare yourself for the sweet meats!

Nikiya (Uzoamaka Aniunoh) has been in a loving and happy relationship with the handsome and charming Luc (Bucci Franklin) for a very long time, but the man—handsome and charming as he may be—has got his secrets. Specifically, he refuses to talk about his family—he moved away from them before he met her and even changed his name. And whenever the subject of his home comes up he clams up tighter than an airtight clam. But being an orphan herself, Nikiya longs for a bigger sense of community, and when her pregnancy test says “yup” she gives Luc an ultimatum—give her the family she’s always wanted, or she’s moving on out.

As anyone with their own dysfunctional families (i.e. everyone with a family) knows, girl has got a mad case of the-grass-is-greener. But Luc relents anyway—despite the emotional and physical distance, he has maintained some contact with his mother Omicha (Gloria Anozie Young), and so he knows his parents are about to have a big party for their 50th anniversary. What a coincidence! What perfect timing! And off they go, all two-point-five of them, to Luc’s remote village to make like Ben Stiller and meet the parents.

But the Ben Stiller of it all ends rather quickly since the first thing Nikiya and Luc are greeted by as they roll into Luc’s village in the middle of the night is a roadblock maintained by two very large, very unfunny men wielding machetes. They say they’re looking for a man who kidnapped a woman, but their “jokes” play more like entirely undisguised threats. And they seem more interested in Luc’s car than what they might have to do with their machetes in order to obtain said car for themselves.

The men are cut off mid-joke though as Luc unbuttons his shirt and flashes them a mark on his shoulder, which causes them to frantically apologize, and let the couple roll off on their safe, un-machete’d way. Nikiya’s impressed when he admits he just had to let the men know who his family was for this outcome—I do believe the phrase she uses is “her loins are frothing,” and I knew I liked Nikiya right then and there. Even if she should listen to her loins a little less, since they’re distracting from the important matters at hand. But I get it. Relatable!

Once the two-some and their frothing loins do finally roll up on Luc’s parents place it’s all smiles and hugs—mama Omicha immediately takes to Nikiya, as does Luc’s flirtatious father Meki (Keppy Ekpenyong Bassey). Any irritable bygones about Luc’s vanishing act seem nonexistent—Meki and Omicha are warm and friendly and full of love to give. Nikiya’s wishes are coming true, and there doesn’t seem to be a monkey’s paw anywhere in sight. And when Luc’s older sister Kama (Meg Otanwa) shows up the next day that sense of belonging only solidifies—for Nikiya it’s like meeting the sister she never had. Thick as thieves, the lot of them!

Unfortunately for everybody Kama isn’t alone—her boyfriend, the self-proclaimed “man of substance” Zeido (James Gardiner), is also using the anniversary party as an excuse to ingratiate himself with the family. And Zeido’s, not to put too fine a point on it, a real piece of shit. Patronizing and abusive, he manages to alienate every single member of the family one by one, and that’s even before anybody acknowledges the black eye that Kama’s repeatedly blaming on a “fall.”

But most infuriating of all, to Luc and eventually Nikiya as she senses the breadth of it, is Luc’s parents’ seeming indifference to the disrespect (and fists) that Zeido is laying in their daughter. Is this simply a case of cultural differences? Are Luc and Nikiya, as modernized city-folk, simply out of touch with the macho posturing of this rural patriarchy? And the devaluing of women to them feels like some backwoods bullshit that they need to call out, even if it might ruin the weekend? Or is something else altogether going on?

I’ll leave those answers to the film, which takes several wild swerves in the setting of its table before the big banquet is finally unveiled. What matters most is letting you know that Oriahi has crafted a tense and terrific thriller here—you probably won’t be super surprised by where it’s heading, but the performances are all so good (all of the actors, especially Bassey and Young as the parents, are well-established in Nigeria’s so-called “Nollywood” cinema) that you’ll find yourself white-knuckling it through the unhinged last act anyway because of how much they all make your care for this family. Turns out The Weekend is a feast and a half, and nobody’s leaving the theater hungry.