Tell Me Sweet Something may be set in Johannesburg, South Africa, but its themes of love and uncertainty are universal. Director Akin Omotoso’s charming romantic comedy revolves around Moratiwa, (Nomzamo Mbatha) an aspiring novelist and book store owner who was dubbed the next big thing in literature in her teenage years. Since her boyfriend left for milk one day and never returned, Moratiwa’s love life has been a series of false starts.

Things begin to finally look up for Moratiwa when, after being dragged out to a club by her best friend Tshaka (Thishiwe Ziqubu), she meets male model Nat (Maps Maponyane). Though there is an undeniable spark between them, Moratiwa tries in vain to resist his charms. As she begins to open to the possibility of love, and her passion for writing reignites, things become complicated when Nat’s jealous ex-girlfriend announces that she is pregnant.

Omotoso’s film touches on several of the genre beats that one would expect, but what makes it standout is the fact that Moratiwa and Nat feel like real people. They are relatable and approach the ups and downs in their life in an honest way. Even the comic relief in the film, such as Nat’s friend Gordon (Thomas Gumede), never becomes a caricature of the sidekicks normally found in romantic comedies.

While the film does a great job of showing Moratiwa’s evolution, especially in terms of understanding her own role in her relationship woes, Omotoso also ensures that Nat is given layers of his own. A genuinely decent guy throughout the film, it is Nat who, due to his job, is constantly battling the unjust assumptions of others. Even Moratiwa falls prey to thinking that Nat is more brawns than brain at times.

A delightful romantic comedy lead by two charismatic leads, Tell Me Sweet Something shows that there is always time to write a new chapter in one’s love story.

Wednesday, October 10, 6 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox