WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Mardaleen, a strikingly cultured student stuck in the small town of Potchefstroom, yearns for the lights and culture of London. After a dreadful break up she packs her bags and sets off to her dream city with her best friend, Lara. They stay in House Konettie, along with five other South Africans working in London. An unexpected romance blossoms between Mardaleen and Namibian-born housemate, Hugo. It seems too good to be true, and the moment things start getting too serious—which wasn’t quite what she’d planned—her insecurities and fears get the better of her and she bails and heads home.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Another Valentine’s Day, another Afrikaans romcom - Vergeet My Nie is everything you want in a romantic story, but it has a certain authenticity that makes it stand out. While hijinks, stupid misunderstandings and a certain unrealness permeates these kinds of movies, this one keeps its feet firmly on the ground, in part because the story is based on a real-life romance. It touches on an actual problem that specifically South African women face when it comes to navigating a relationship and a career - two paths that historically have seen the women compromising the most and has been a hard patriarchal tradition to kick.
Mardaleen has her path all mapped out for herself - one that includes zero independence on a man - and lands up in London to pay off her university debt. Her path keeps crossing with Hugo - a silver-tongued farmboy from Namibia - and she has to make hard decisions to keep her life on track.
Vergeet My Nie starts wobbly in execution and maintaining the attention of the audience, but after a while the characters start to grow on you, seducing you with platteland poetry, lights and horizons. They really want to make sure that you know it’s set in the late 90s, complete with dial-up internet, old computers and chunky digital watches, but you stay on board with the time period as they never lose focus in their continuity. Many will relate to that gap year experience in London, as well as the after-university fight for your love when your career paths diverge.
But the key winning ingredient in this movie is its leading man - played by Sean-Marco Vorster (Alles Malan, Die Windpomp). He will buckle knees and melt hearts - at first, I didn’t think he was that exciting, but as the movie progresses, you end up hanging on to his every word. His diction of Hugo’s poetry and letters, the way he calls Mardaleen ‘jakkals’ - it’s like listening to an Afrikaans Shakespearean Romeo, each word dripping with a smoothness that will make anyone fall in love. You will get annoyed with Mardaleen, but her motivations for pursuing her career remain valid throughout, leaving the audience in this constant turmoil choosing sides.
And Fiona Ramsay’s turn as a grumpy Brit intent on destroying her already fragile lungs with cigarettes is a performance to marvel at.
While Vergeet My Nie can be a bit robotic at times as it gets comfortable inside the mechanics of a romance, its groundedness and velvety words make it a strong Afrikaans rom-com that doesn’t make you twitch at the banal sentimentality of the genre.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: