Tomisin Adepeju’s new short film, I am Joseph – [short review]

Student Writer | Luke Hetherington

I am Joseph makes a valiant effort to humanise the oft-neglected tale of cuckolded-by-a-deity Joseph (Michael Akinsulire) coming to terms with Mary’s (Asmara Gabrielle) perceived infidelity, and ultimately, their shared destiny. Though the premise establishes itself in an awkwardly paced opening scene riddled with unnecessary dialogue, the biblical references are pleasantly underplayed as a visitor approaches Joseph and quietly influences their reconciliation. However, for some the whole affair will be a tad on-the-nose. 

I am Joseph TRAILER

With much of the film resting on Akinsulire’s shoulders, I am Joseph could collapse into a disinteresting, pedestrian character study. By balancing sensitive betrayal and masculine aggression, Akinsulire imbues the film with a certain emotional resonance within the melodramatic stretch wherein Joseph accepts the situation; the contrast between his physicality as a carpenter and emotional breakdown is the strongest asset the film possesses. With a respectable filmography including Killing Eve, the emerging Akinsulire utilises the leading role to announce himself as a talent with potential. A further strength is the earthy production design that transposes the biblical narrative to an ambiguous modern era. It is difficult to say if the time shift is to try and obscure the miraculous conception from being a simple biblical adaptation. Regardless, the design successfully hides the intended adaptation, if only for sixty seconds.

A still from the film

The problem lies almost solely on the decision to make a short film about Joseph’s brief journey. There is only his betrayal and acceptance to explore (and as stated, Akinsulire rises to the occasion). To add further plot threads runs the risk of sacrilegious artistic-license, so writer/director Tomisin Adepeju is restricted somewhat by the original mission statement but does an admirable job of telling this story despite the time and narrative constraints.  Religious viewers will likely find it a welcome and watchable addition to the Christian film genre, but its mileage may vary somewhat for others.

A still from the film

I am Joseph is written and directed by Royal Holloway alumni Tomisin Adepeju (The Good Son, Marianne, The Right Choice, Appreciation). The film was created and produced by Stephané Alexandre, executive produced by Matthew Barrett (Emmy and BAFTA award winner) and Vikki McLachlan, with cinematography by BAFTA-nominated Miles Ridgway. The short is the first offering from Four8’s ‘I am…’ series which looks at ‘reintroducing biblical characters within timeless settings’. 

I am Joseph is now streaming on YouTube.

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