Tell Me Sweet Something is a love story set in the urban sprawl of Johannesburg. Moratiwa (Nomzamo Mbata) was once the city’s most promising young writer, set to write ‘The Greatest African Love Story’. However, when her sweetheart leaves without warning, her will to write again seems to have evaporated with him.
She now manages a large book store where customer visits are scant, but it is her haven. However, this haven does not provide the ideal environment for socialising. To encourage her to depart from her singlehood, her friend prompts her to embrace the night life, where there is an abundance of potential lovers. On her first night out in a long time, she meets South Africa’s top model, Nat (Maps Maponyayne). Nat is not as keen on books as she is, therefore she is a little apprehensive at first, but it does not take long for Moratiwa to allow Nat to lead her out of her comfort zone.
This urban love story is narrowed down to Maboneng precinct, Johburg’s hub of metropolitan art and culture. The lighting sits softly over the people and buildings, and the bustle of the city is now a mellow backdrop for something more intimate to take place. Everything is set perfectly to tell the story of something meaningful. Unfortunately, the main ingredient for it all to seamlessly come together is missing. Indeed, the story itself is weak.
What develops in the story – from start to finish – really is no surprise. The movie does not move away from the overplayed formula that we are used to watching. This, of course, is not an issue if the film displays some good character development, where something is introduced to give a deeper or new understanding of a person, but it does not. In fact, I find the development of both the characters and story line to be extravagantly clichéd.
Unfortunately, not much praise can be given for the acting either. The only solid performances I can pick up come from the cameo roles of Thembi Seete and Thomas Gumede. The main characters are disappointing; their timing is off, which makes their delivery unnatural. Funny enough though, the two leading characters were able to display strong chemistry as lovers on screen, despite their awkward performances.
I imagine that the script writing proved to be a more tedious task than the directing of the film. I think the mood of the story has been influenced by its setting or location and the lighting. In other words, the cinematic elements take priority in the shaping of the story.
Therefore, if there is anything that this movie’s relative success can be ascribed to, it is the production. It is the only element, in my opinion, that formed the potential of this film to reach the big screen. The overall sentiment of the film is enjoyable, but it definitely would not have been communicated if it had not been for the director. I would say the building blocks of this story line are more suited for a TV drama. The directing of this film is certainly the largest tool in illustrating how even in a busy city, time is willing to slow down for love.