A Late Christmas Love Story… But Just in Time for Val Adesegun Ade-Martins

A Soweto Love Story seems to be a delayed Christmas rom-com burst on the scene on February 14, with a rich ensemble cast and a love story for the ages. This South African Netflix original film stars Lunga Shabalala, Duduzile Ngcobo playing Bongekile, and Sparky Xulu, among others. It is directed by Rolie Nikiwe, who also directed Whatever It Takes, with a script from writers Darrel Bristow and Bovey Zelipa Zulu.

A Soweto Love Story follows the story of Bongekile, a matriarch and church leader with three sons, who are all eligible bachelors. Bongekile (played by Duduzile Ngcobo) has a fit when one of her sons’ marriage proposal fails. In a bid to accept their comfort, she challenges her sons, saying that whoever gets married by New Year’s Day will inherit her house. And so the drama takes off.  

The three brothers are Menzi (Sparky Xulu), Sandile (Lunga Shabalala), and Sky (Ray Neo Buso), who are close in age. Sky lives and works at his studio in the house, while Menzi owns a restaurant, and Sandile is a famous music producer with a condo in a building somewhere. Sandile is deep into a relationship with Sente (Motsoaledi Setumo) and has a proposal setup at Menzi’s restaurant. Meanwhile, Menzi doesn’t have a relationship (he’s picky in his partner selection). Sky’s relationship status is ambiguous, as everyone, even his mother, Bongekile, believes that he is a gay man who will not provide the type of family extension she seeks.

What didn’t work

The premise of the movie seems contrived. “Whoever finds a wife will inherit the house.” The drama that ensues feels forced. A ticking clock provides an ultimatum for the brothers because if none of them finds a wife, she will sell the house. As it turns out, the brothers all have a vested interest in owning their mother’s house or would be satisfied with her still owning the property.  

Suddenly, Menzi and Sky work to sabotage Sandile because he has the most natural relationship situation. Consequently, the love situations that Menzi and Sky encounter are manufactured by the ultimatum. 

 Sandile is the main character, and his story arc is boring. His marriage proposal was turned down because Sente found evidence that he was cheating. He struggles with trying to churn out a music hit and avoid his assets being repossessed by loan sharks, who play a crucial role in his redemption. In the grand scheme of things, his arc could have been better because it is the centre of the story.  

Menzi’s character seems over the top in moments, and the cause of his uptightness is never resolved because he’s too busy balancing a new attractive chef in his kitchen, trying to sabotage Sandile, and finding a wife. Sky’s character arc is a mess, and it seems like it was designed to create a particular mystery. Everyone in the film assumes he’s gay, although they never give a reason for this assumption. Anyway, when his arc is resolved, you are either underwhelmed by the fact that you saw it coming from a mile away or it is completely ridiculous. 

Essentially, the filmmakers are following the rom-com format closely, but the problems that occur are too many major character arcs. Three arcs are too many to develop organically, and the problem with the many story elements that happen seems outcome-driven as opposed to a story unfolding.

What worked

The movie is not a complete shambles. As such, some of the threads tie off nicely, even though they are predictable. Especially the Sandile and Sente relationship.There are no surprises with the technical quality of the production; sound, lighting, and editing are top-notch from a commercial standpoint.The acting in spots was truly natural. Especially, the way South Africans speak Zulu and English in movies lends itself to naturalness. For example, whenever a Yoruba actor speaks Yoruba, they feel the need to translate what they just said into English. Essentially, they repeat themselves.


I rate it 4.8 out of 10. It’s entertaining but has painfully obvious outcomes. 

Don’t watch it if you are dog tired of clichés. If you have any innate storytelling instincts, you have already watched this film. You don’t need to be a film expert. 

 Watch it because it’s fun and you would like some background noise while you work, read, or snuggle next to your cats or loved ones.  

It’s not a must-watch, but it is a reminder that wholesome things can come from black Africans. It’s a Valentine’s Day rom-com with Christmas themes for the Conservative Christian family.

•Ade-Martins writes from Abuja 

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