Nicole Fortuin in Late Bloomer.
WHERE TO WATCH:
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
A happy-go-lucky party girl must reassess her carefree life when she falls in love and suspects she may be pregnant after a one-night stand.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Late Bloomer is marketed as a romantic comedy, but calling it that does a disservice to what the film is – a story about a woman finding herself whereby the romance is secondary. Writer and director Amy Jephta took us on a journey about growing up, learning to take responsibility and believing that you deserve more.
The film tells the story of Lauryn (Nicole Fortuin), who lives a party life of drinking and one-night-stands. This suits her, even though it severely affects her relationships with her family members. And it seems as if the only stable relationship in her life is with her co-worker, even though she rarely works. This changes when she falls pregnant and does not know who the father is. At the same time, she meets a man, Darryn (Danny Ross), who shows her a different way to be loved.
The first thing that struck me about Late Bloomer was how sex-positive it is. South African films tend to lean towards the conservative, with sex often implied or hinted to. Late Bloomer takes the metaphorical bull by the horns and speaks explicitly about sex, And even though Lauryn is judged by those around her for her choices, it isn’t treated like some strange evil activity that she is partaking in. The judgement and the concern mostly seem to stem from the frequency with which she has one-night-stands and because she does not seem to have her life in order.
Even after Lauryn falls pregnant and is trying to decide whether to keep the baby or have an abortion, the option of abortion is not villainised. They are both viable options, and the people in her life give her the space to make it.
It’s also important to note that we don’t often see multi-layer portrayals of coloured women on screen. If they are shown at all, it is either as a stereotypical ‘Cape Flats’ woman involved with drugs and gangsterism or a character devoid of any culture. Lauryn, however, feels real. She feels like you, like someone who went to high school with you, like a co-worker. She is a flawed woman, and within her relationship with her family, we see how she embraced her coloured heritage. Yet, it is not everything about the character which makes her three-dimensional. And even when she is making silly mistakes, we still root for her, which is the markings of a well-written character.
But one question that plagued me throughout the film that I did not feel was answered was why was Lauryn like this? Why was she afraid of anything permanent? I kept waiting for more to be revealed about their childhood to understand why Lauryn struggled so much with commitment, why she never pursued what she studied for, and why her sister Nikki (Monique Rockman) was so straight-laced and was obsessed with creating a very particular family situation.
However, Nicole Fortuin’s portrayal of Lauryn is what makes the character truly believable. Her facial expressions flip through emotions so quickly but so poignantly that you feel that you are on the train of thought with her. When she is stressed, when she is intrigued, when she is worried, when she is having fun, you feel it with her. Fortuin is an incredibly talented actor and was an excellent choice to lead this film.
I struggled with her love interest, Darryn, though. The character seemed like the quintessential nerdy nice guy with the checkered shirts who nervously pushes back his spectacles. He was such a textbook version of a ‘not like the other guys’ guy that he did not feel real, and I, in turn, was not convinced about their relationship. We also don’t know much about him other than his first time in a club was in his late-20’s/early-30’s and that he likes to run. Which goes back to my point that this is not so much a romance as it is Lauryn’s story, and he is just one of the catalysts for the changes that happen in it.
Without spoiling the ending, I will say it has an open ending. And it suits the film’s tone of growth and self-discovery, but I did feel like it ended quite abruptly, and I was left a little confused.
Late Bloomer is a fun film with many enjoyable moments and with characters and writing that feel familiar. It is an easy watch and is a welcoming addition to the canon of South African films that are telling intriguing and compelling contemporary stories.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: