Judy Kibinge’s Something Necessary does its best to be a diptych. It portrays two people feeling the aftermath of Kenya’s 2007 post election violence. Anne (Susan Wanjiru) is a nurse and recent widow convalescing in a hospital. She’s stubborn, professing that she’s healing faster than the rest of the staff thinks she is. On the other hand, there’s young Joseph (Walter Lagat). He still reluctantly hangs out with gangs who disagree with the election’s result. As these things go, the film connects these stories.
The youth in Joseph’s neighborhood can sense his change of heart. Thus, he is in the receiving end of violence by these young people around him. Anne, on the other hand, manifests symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. She also starts vomiting, a result of an unwanted pregnancy after the violence. It’s easy to put two and two together as to who the father of this child is. Credit is where credit’s due to the honest way it portrays Anne’s situation.
This is where the film veers into a worse version of itself, as it watches both characters unravel. Anne’s unraveling is more understandable, as well as the reactions of most people around her. Nobody likes a downer even in these situations. And her friends and family wonder why she hasn’t moved on unlike them. That said, the way they speak to her make them look like stock villains. The script also plays into every ‘damaged woman’ stereotype possible.
Sure, its portrayal of rebuilding a home seems more practical than Hollywood version of that story. And audiences can relate to Anne’s post-manic catatonic state in the face of insurmountable plight. But there’s something overtly symbolic about the way this film does it. It even plays into a film becoming its own national metaphor. Anne has a lack of income as well as debts. In a way, that reflects a developing nation owing a lot of money after its own self destruction and rehabilitation.
I like a female perspective of national violence and how a woman heals from that. It also competently shows the fine, problematic line between determination and delusion. But Joseph’s presence lessens as the film progresses. He just shows up to do things for Anne that Anne knows nothing about. This film could have either removed him or give both characters equal screen time. Joseph receding into the background feels like a compromise that gives unsatisfying results.