Film Critic: Gabi Zietsman
If you’ve zoomed past the 30-year mark, life tends to become a series of milestones that you haven’t reached at the same time as the rest of your family or friends. Despite the mantra that ‘everyone is on their own timeline’, it’s hard to hold on to that when you’re sharing a house with strangers you met on the internet while Saara from high school is happily married on Instagram and popping out her third kid already. Locally produced Late Bloomer – available on Showmax and directed by Amy Jephta from Barakat fame, – is a love letter to those who feel the complete opposite and actively avoid reaching any kind of milestone. While it attempted to flip the script on this generic narrative, it doesn’t quite pack the punch needed to deliver its message.
The film follows ageing party animal Lauryn who has stalled in her life with work and love, and refuses to build any attachments to the men that she sleeps with – much to the annoyance of her married-with-kids sister. Her lifestyle starts to shift when she meets a guy that doesn’t want to sleep with her but actually wants to get to know her, and she starts to suspect that one of her one-night stands might have led to a bun in the oven.
Without the likeability and charm of Nicole Fortuin, Lauryn could have easily come across as obnoxious and irksome as she defends her wild lifestyle, which is honestly horribly dangerous in a South African context. Fortuin softens those edges enough that you can’t help but want to be her friend, even though she does completely idiotic things. I do wonder if her portrayal of a wayward 30-something-year-old isn’t maybe a bit too extreme, sometimes coming off as preachy, including the warped messaging that the right man (or baby) will set you on the right path. The story has legs, but it just didn’t quite reach its destination.
What was very entertaining was the dynamic between Lauryn and her prim-and-proper sister, played by Monique Rockman from Suidooster fame. She appears to have a perfect life, and can’t handle the fact that her sister refuses to fit inside her society-sculpted mold. She even attempts to stage an intervention that no-one else is invested in – even their parents – and it’s quite hilarious when her frustrations boil to the surface. However, her character goes deeper than that, and Late Bloomer takes pains in highlighting the kind of strain the pursuit of perfection can have, and what exactly Lauryn might be running away from.
Despite this, it’s never quite clear why Lauryn lives her life the way she does. It would have added some more meat to the bone if we had just one fleshed-out incident from the past instead of small insinuations that lead nowhere. It has the drawback of turning Lauryn into a vapid creature with little motivation that only gained substance when she got a ‘real’ man and a potential baby. While the ending was apt and left her with more agency in her life, you couldn’t quite care enough to know where it will all end up.
Late Bloomer had a lot of the right ingredients, it just got left in the oven a little too long. If you feel like you’re in the same boat as Lauryn – minus the surprise pregnancy – you might be a little annoyed at the messaging but will still enjoy her blunders and messiness.