[Film Review]: "Love By Chance"

In Love by Chance, Bailey Kingston (Altovise Lawrence) and Chance Xolani Crawford (Atandwa Kani) are two South African Hollywood hopefuls who meet at an audition on an off-chance. They are both working hard to land a role – any role – and prove to themselves that they really can make it in America. 

Samad Davis's Love by Chance
Atandwa Kani turns in a stellar performance as Chance, the bright-eyed, enthusiastic and determined new actor who can’t wait to step into fame. Chance charms his way into a lead role, but once he is in the spotlight things begin to fall apart. It’s too much, too soon, and Chance momentarily forgets why he came to America in the first place.
Bailey, on the other hand, is fighting against the ever-shifting standards of the acting industry: which accent should she use today? Which wig? Her journey echoes that of many other black actresses in America and elsewhere, the one in which they never feel good enough and often have to compromise themselves to get ahead.

As is expected with romantic comedies, the conflicts in the couple’s individual lives play themselves out in a Big Fight that forces each of them to re-evaluate their relationship. In this case, it is Chance who allows his taste of fame to overtake his common sense. He ends up neglecting Bailey – no longer caring about her progress in her own career, and choosing to spend every possible moment “on set” instead of with her – and, at a dinner party with all their friends present, accuses her of being jealous and selfish.

The reunion happens in one of those scenes that could only happen in a movie: Chance runs onto Bailey’s movie set, pushes past security and starts banging on Bailey’s door. On the other side, Bailey is on the phone with her mother (played by Nandi Nyembe), doubting herself and freaking out about not wanting to mess up this huge opportunity. It’s bad timing: Bailey is literally at work, and Chance is trespassing. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

The movie wraps up on a feel-good note, having shown the importance of staying true to one’s values, working hard and cultivating a strong support system while pursuing a dream. And, of course, that even while you are singularly focused on ticking items off your life’s to-do list, you can and should make space for love.

Some highlights: 

  • Bailey’s phone call to her mom before she steps onto set: in this scene Lawrence does a great job of distilling all the emotions of an actor on the verge of something big into one moment. It really did feel like her world was falling apart and I couldn’t wait to see whether (and how) she got through that moment.
  • Denise Zimba as Monica, the friend who always shows up at random moments, eats all your food, throws some shade and then ducks. We all have that friend, amirite? She fits the character perfectly.
  • Nicholas Nkuna, of Skeem Saam, plays Aaron, another South African actor on the Atlanta scene who serves as an outlet for the stereotypical clueless bumpkin in America that we have seen in many movies before. He answers all questions with “Yes! Yes!” and everyone assumes that he cannot speak English. Aaron is, however, fluent in isiZulu, and he enlists Chance to translate for him. 
When it is revealed that Aaron can in fact speak English, he answers everyone’s surprise with a comment about how they couldn’t all have possibly believed that an actor would be auditioning in America without speaking the language. He had everyone fooled (myself included) and it just goes to show that you can never assume to know what someone’s story is. (Also, if you believe that a person can be treated like a bumbling idiot because they do not speak your language, you need to take a good look at yourself.)

When you watch Love by Chance, you will see a talented cross-continental cast bringing a fun story to life. Altovise Lawrence is a gem, Atandwa Kani is a pleasure to watch as always and the cheesiness is at just the right level to have me watching the film again without rolling my eyes too far back into my head.

Love by Chance by Samad Davis opened at Ster Kinekor and Nu Metro on 5 May. Go out and see it. 


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