‘Smart Casuals’ is a well-cast romantic drama that offers a disturbingly honest look at relationships

Angela Sithole and Terrence Ngwila as Mahlatsi and Bheka in ‘Smart Casuals’.

Angela Sithole and Terrence Ngwila as Mahlatsi and Bheka in ‘Smart Casuals’.

Published Apr 22, 2024


When it comes to home-grown romcoms or romantic dramas, SA isn’t lacking. If anything, there has been a deluge of offerings over the years.

Some of the popular films include “Tell Me Sweet Something”, “Fanie Fourie’s Lobola”, “Troukoors”, “Happiness is a Four-Letter Word”, “Happiness Never After”, “Love Lives Here”, “Catching Feelings”, “Mrs. Right Guy”, “Seriously Single”, “Home Wrecker” and “A Soweto Love Story”.

All of these movies unpacked relationships from various angles.

And “Smart Casuals”, which is one of the local offerings to come out of a partnership between Netflix and the National Film and Video Foundation, sits up there with its celebrated predecessors.

While the film isn’t blessed with a big budget, it is offset by a talented cast and a masterfully penned script by Zwo Farisani, who co-produces it with his sibling, Ndamu Farisani, under Farisani Creations.

“Smart Casuals” also marks Zwo’s directorial debut.

It annoyed me when I started watching the film, but not for reasons you may think. Some characters were in an indecisive rut, repeating past mistakes and unwilling to change.

It speaks directly to Zwo’s prowess as a writer, delivering a script, which is realistic, authentic and, most importantly, relatable to viewers.

He calls a spade a spade and uses his characters to address struggles that many people have dealt with or are dealing with.

“Smart Casuals” is blessed with a stellar cast of Anga Makubalo (“Jiva!”, “Broken Vows”), Angela Sithole (“Savage Beauty”, “The Queen”), Terrence Ngwila (“The Wife”, “Generations: The Legacy”), Mandisa Constable, Nyaniso Dzedze (“Black is King”, “Hear Me Move”), Nomsa Twala (“Savage Beauty”) and hip hop dance pioneer, Kudzai Mureriwa.

The story centres on two couples.

Mahlatsi (Sithole) and Bheka (Ngwila) have been together for over a decade. They have postponed walking down the aisle twice. Will they be lucky on the third try?That is the question.

The couple are being interviewed for a reality TV show. During their joint and solo sessions, the cracks in their relationship become more evident.

A successful businessman, Bheka is always busy. He is never home. He never has time to help with the wedding planning and constantly disappoints Mahlatsi.

Despite him being self-centred and arrogant, Mahlatsi tries to get him to change his ways.

His flippancy in how he communicates with the cameraman also becomes a bone of contention between the two.

During a chat with her girlfriend, Mahlatsi learns that getting a ring doesn’t mean happily ever after. And that, cheating is par for the course.

She just wants her man to be present, loving and committed. After being disappointed one too many times, they end up having a heated argument about the sad state of their relationship when Bheka breaks a promise once again.

While he is ugly with his honesty during the fight, Mahlatsi doesn’t hold back either.

On the flip side, there is Taki (Makubalo). A talented photographer, he doesn’t believe in love after being left broken-hearted by a cheating girlfriend.

As such, he ends up having countless flings until he meets Tumi (Constable), who is in an open relationship and has her own baggage.

While drawn to her, he can’t move past his shortcomings.

The film explores the idea of love, dating and commitment from a fragmented perspective. It also touches on healing, self-love and forgiveness.

Terrence Ngwila, Angela Sithole, Anga Makubalo and Mandisa Constable are the leads in ‘Smart Casuals’.

Zwo deserves praise for how he tackled a subject matter that can sometimes come across as pedestrian.

He dexterously explores both sides of the coin – those who cheat and those who are cheated on – peeling back the frustrations that come with ghosting and planning a future with a gold-digger.

His poetic ending speaks volumes as well.

“Smart Casuals” is as much a cautionary tale as it is an exceptional, small-budget release.

It’s also a wonderful testament to the industry bursting with talented individuals deserving of a platform to prove themselves. Zwo is one of them.

∎ “Smart Casuals” is streaming on Netflix.