REVIEW: Seriously Single

Seriously Single is a cringe and cavalier film by Rethabile & Katleho Ramaphakela. It mixes large narrative time skips with quick tensionless pacing to create a very thin storyline. What we do receive is a film about the romantic turmoil of Dineo (Fulu Mugovhani) and Noni (Tumi Morake), a pair of professionals in Johannesburg. Being a romantic comedy, we can hold off our intensive film criticism, allowing greater room for the absurd and comic relief. However, there are coarse aspects of this film that are difficult to ignore because of how prominent and pervasive they are.

What’s the story here?

The storyline is lackadaisical. An event moves on to the next, but there is no spirit holding these events together. The characters have general agendas, but no specific characterisation. Even in romantic comedies, there are attempts to explain character motivations, give them a range of emotional pushes and pulls, and most crucially weave a believable storyline. We know why this character does this instead of that. Future activities may be foreshadowed. There are tensions related to events and conflicts related to characters.

At the same time, romantic comedies are a form of genre given more license to subvert the traditional expectations of film. The priority of enjoyability, humour, and absurdity surpasses the dramatic and theatrical. But, Seriously Single is not a project which deliberately subverts film media -- it unintentionally disorders and disrespects it.

There is very little intentional about Dineo’s character arc. She is written as such an empty mould that she could just about do anything and that would be in line with her character, supposedly. The little we know about her is constantly contradicted on-screen. Her final realisation where she awakes to her romantic desperation should be the hallmark of the film. Instead, there is an empty moment that just plays out in front of us, without any spirit.

Ultimately, an enjoyable romantic comedy still needs to be full of some essence, whether traditional or subverted. Film still needs something to say, even when it wants to speak absurdly. Seriously Single is a film that shows discordance and tells emptiness -- and not deliberately.

Absurd Romance

But there is, at least, some semblance of a story. Dineo is recently single, emotionally burned, and desperate for romance. She stumbles upon Lunga (Bohang Moeko) and turmoils into a disastrous toxic relationship, which Dineo persists. Noni is permanently single and in control. She must address the advances of her love interest, Max (Yonda Thomas) which challenges both. These are interesting storylines to explore, relevant to South African experiences and the larger romantic comedy genre.

But the goal should be to make the romance comic and absurd, not the film itself. Seriously Single reduces itself to the laughable. The humour in this show appears penned by sophomoric comedy writers, adopting the notes from a high school play. The film stacks commercial music throughout, adopting a song in almost every scene, such that it feels like listening to a music playlist. The first real conflict in the film occurs 80 minutes into the runtime through an awkwardly-timed and non-invested fight between Dineo and Noni.

Worse of all is the problematic politics which the film reinforces. In one scene, it refers to Dineo and Noni as “stocko” (women who are believed to be available for having fun and entertainment) and it allows strange and unfunny cultural appropriation by Dineo’s white boss. Comedy can certainly normalise harmful social norms -- and more so when such comedy is intertwined with romance.

Overall, Seriously Single is a series of comedic skits, a cacophony of antics, and a crashing spectacle of the kind of romantic comedies that have very little to say.

*Watch Seriously Single on Netflix