'Catching Feelings': A trendy love letter to Johannesburg
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In a country where we are bombarded with apartheid stories, it’s always a relief when there are other stories that are told. And that’s not to say that stories about our history are not of the utmost importance, because they are. But it’s always nice to watch something that speaks to another side of us, like Catching Feelings.
Some of you may be thinking that I sound a tad hypocritical. Especially, given the fact that, at the moment, the tide in South African film seems to have shifted towards the telling of romantic comedies. Nonetheless, it still is a relief to shed the political baggage every now and again.
The short and long of Catching Feelings is that it’s a film that’s set in Johannesburg, a city pulsating with contradictions. If focuses on Max, a cynical writer turned English professor and his beautiful wife, whose lives are turned upside down when a celebrated and hedonistic older writer comes into their lives, pushing their relationship to the brink. In the film, Kagiso Lediga takes on the opportunity to be both in front of the camera and behind it. As he mentioned in conversation, this was a challenging but fun exercise for him.
The film fashions itself as a love letter to Johannesburg. It features some beautifully composed shots over Johannesburg and shows her off as I would have pictured her: a woman who is trendy, cool, sophisticated and level-headed, while a little rough around the edges.
The casting is also quite interesting. Respected filmmaker and actor Akin Omotoso plays the best friend to Lediga’s Max. As Joel, we see Omotoso’s less intense side, but also his versatility as an actor. He’s actually quite relatable as the guy next door.
I have never seen Precious Makgaretsa in a film role before. She plays Lazola, a radical feminist and poet, who happens to be the wingwoman of Pearl Thusi’s character, Samkelo. Makgaretsa’s portrayal of Lazola is comical. That awkward intensity that she brings is endearing. Samkelo is a journalist who is married to Max. While Pearl’s acting cannot be faulted, I just couldn’t connect with her character, despite her occupation. My favourite was Andrew Buckland in the role of larger than life author Heiner Miller.
Buckland is an established actor and you can see it in how believable his annoying and talented character is. Other people, such as Celeste Ntuli and Ebenhaezer Dibakwane make an appearance in the film - Ntuli as a corruptible Metro Cop and Dibakwane as the younger, cooler, sibling to Max, who has a successful musical career and makes a lot more cash than his brother does.
As you can imagine, this opens the floodgates to awkwardness around dinner tables and mutual friends.
My favourite scene involves Max offering to take the bill at the end of his dinner date with close friends. When his card is declined, his more affluent brother swoops in and saves the day. Needless to say, Max is left red-faced and that scene is pure gold.
The film explores themes of trust in young marriages, friendship, success, infidelity and the other perils of being young, black and fabulous in Johannesburg. I loved that the film is seriously relatable and that it makes some valid points in its commentary on race relations in the country. The conversation about race and privilege between Max, Heiner and a woman, who is a researcher, is bound to leave people squirming in their seats.
The score, composed by Bokani Dyer, fits in perfectly with the film; it’s the right mix of trendy and fun.
Catching Feelings is a good film to watch on a night out with friends. It has just the right amount of funny and serious to make for interesting talking points.