What’s the difference between a home-cooked dinner and a Michelin-star feast? A home-cooked meal is made with very little money and lots of heart. That’s how I felt about Rotimi Akanbi’s drama Route 24.
Ray (Olu Akanbi) returns home after a four-year prison sentence with the goal to stay out of prison. Jobs are tough to find because no one wants to hire a felon, and no one wants to loan money to one either. Ray plans to keep himself on the straight and narrow by setting small goals, but life has a way of throwing massive wrenches into those plans.
Fortunately for Ray, he’s got friends, but he discovers there’s not much freedom for them, though they never even went to prison. Needing a place to stay, Ray rooms with Layon (Leon Copeland, Jr.), whose trouble comes through his step-son, Corey (Holden Bath), who owes money to the wrong people. Then there’s B.B. (Harold Luther White), the bar owner where Ray hangs, whose wife is fed up with his inability to make money.
Ray is looking for love, too, and it comes in the form of Gina (Courtney Turner), who is the co-dependent ex-girlfriend of local thug and dealer, Deyga (Roger Killian). Ray and Gina fall for one another, and he wants to leave town with her. Deyga doesn’t like Ray much, and hitting on Gina isn’t helping matters.
“Ray returns home after a four-year prison sentence with the goal to stay out of prison.”
When you press play on Route 24, the first thing you’ll notice is it’s a very low-budget independent film from writer/director Rotimi Akanbi. The camerawork is not-that-cinematic, and the audio either has too much ambient sound muddling dialogue or void of needed ambient sound with its blatant use of ADR. The acting is not the greatest either—more on this later.
While Route 24 is low on resources and filmmaking experience, it more than makes up for it with heart. The story is a tragedy of sorts, as Ray finds himself in the same situation as many ex-convicts released without support or guidance, and he straddles the line between staying free and going back. He can’t catch a break, and every time he wants to do the right thing, he finds himself jeopardizing his life or freedom. Speaking of straddling the line, the plot’s attempt to remain grounded often finds itself approaching soap-opera melodrama territory.
Considering this Route 24 Rotimi Akanbi’s first film, there’s a lot to admire. To become a good filmmaker, you’ve got to make films with whatever resources you have available. Creating a 100-minute feature is no easy task. Considering Akanbi also took on the producing, cinematography, and editing duties—significant undertakings—mistakes will be made and lessons learned.
Regarding next time, the sound was the most significant issue when filming on set and location. Also, watch other films to inspire and find creative ways of shooting scenes of dialogue and walking. Now to acting—it felt too much like the actors were playing characters (often over-the-top and heightened). I’d like to see it toned down a bit and more naturalistic. Rehearsals can help fine-tune performances before getting on set. In terms of the story, I loved the reflective nature of Ray’s narration, and how it builds to the moment he finally takes his destiny into his hands. As Ray, Olu Akanbi does a fine job as the lead. His narrations are spot-on, and he’s charismatic, bringing the right level of sympathy to Ray’s plight and struggle.
Check out Route 24. It’s the best way to support emerging filmmakers with stories to tell.
"…life has a way of throwing massive wrenches into those plans."