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Megan Tucker (Diaan Lawrenson, 7de Laan’s ex-Paula) is the image of sleek suburban perfection until the day that her charming chancer of a husband Lloyd’s (Neels van Jaarsveld, Binnelanders’ Dr Gideon Basson) house of cards falls apart and he’s arrested for tax fraud in the tragic-comic South African film Table Manners (2018, first on Showmax).
Megan loses her marriage, her home and all her possessions in one swoop, and suddenly the life that she was sleepwalking through is banging pots and pans over her head like a kindergarten that’s come to play.
Luckily, Megan has friends and family who’re ready to catch the pieces when she falls apart. Her lifelong friend Lindiwe (Renate Stuurman, Isidingo’s ex-Jade) offers her a place to stay.
When Megan manages to royally mess up her life even further, Lindiwe takes off the kid gloves and reminds her, “You chose Lloyd. You chose to be ignorant. Who doesn’t know where the money that they spend comes from? You put your brain in idle”.
And Lindiwe pours out love and stability – and leftover sushi school lunches (oh dear) – for Megan’s 11-and-a-half-year-old son Devan (a wonderfully watchable Julian Robinson), as Megan grapples with her betrayal, homelessness and loss while staying glued to the couch in her pyjamas.
Truly, it takes a great and brave friend to wrestle away the giant bowl of chips that you’re hoovering up because you’re furious and sad!
Once Megan recovers enough to leave the safety of the sofa, she has to start from zero. And as she types out her empty CV, it’s clear that’s going to be a tough sell. But while what happens to Megan is an indictment of the position that full-time motherhood leaves women in when they return to the workplace, Table Manners doesn’t let her off the hook completely.
Pause the film to check out Megan’s otherwise vacant resume and you’ll find out that she has a BBusSc (Bachelor of Business Science) Marketing from UCT. That course includes financial accounting, business accounting, and corporate financial management – so there really was no excuse for Megan plopping all the financial decision making in Lloyd’s paws, aside from the fact that it is still, shockingly, a cultural norm.
And when Megan manages to royally mess up her life even further, Lindiwe takes off the kid gloves and reminds her, “You chose Lloyd. You chose to be ignorant. Who doesn’t know where the money that they spend comes from? You put your brain in idle”.
That’s the voice of self-blame from Table Manners’ screenwriter Nkuli Sibeko (Dana in City Ses’la and Ses’Top La), who poured not only her own experiences with divorce and starting over into Megan’s story – but also, thankfully, her willingness to laugh at her disasters.
Nkuli’s experience rings crystal clear again when Megan takes on Lloyd, who’s tried to paper over (literally, in a fantastic piece of film language) the disastrous breakup of their marriage with a showy prison-yard gesture.
There’s no scene realer than when Megan tells this man who has filled her life with showy moments, but also big showy disappointments and betrayals, “I can’t look at you because I am so angry. It’s bitter, it’s huge and it’s heavy. It fills every part of me and it exhausts me”.
While Table Manners is full of humour and convenient little cheats – like Megan’s cooking blog suddenly going viral when she posts what we can only call a tantrum cake – it’s also achingly realistic in matters of the heart. And the result is a film so full of ups and downs it might leave you feeling shipwrecked … or rescued.