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dir Mahesh Pailoor
prd Yoshinobu Tsuji
scr Mahesh Pailoor, Anu Pradhan
with Sendhil Ramamurthy, Roshan Seth, Mary Steenburgen, Justin Bartha, Monica Raymund, Cassidy Freeman, Michael Lerner, George Newbern, Gerardo Davila, Andrea Savo, Catherine Kresge, Abbe Meryl Feder
release US 14.Nov.14, UK 11.Sep.15
Like father, like son: Seth and Ramamurthy
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
A refreshingly grown-up drama, this gentle movie focusses on a layered web of relationships between four people. And even as various plot points threaten to take over the story, it never goes quite where we expect it to. It's perhaps a bit low-key for mainstream audiences, but those looking for meaty moviemaking shouldn't miss it.
By attending an engineering teachers' conference in Los Angeles, Boston university professor Ashok (Seth) has a chance to address two of his life's loose ends. First, it's been three years since he caught up with his son Sid (Ramamurthy), who lives there with his wife Ellie (Freeman). Second, Ashok's old flame Helen (Steenburgen) is speaking at the conference. But when he arrives, nothing is as expected. Sid and Ellie are separated, and Helen has a husband and family. So Ashok dives into helping Sid get his life back on track, which Sid doesn't really appreciate.
The film beautifully captures the sunny ambience of Los Angeles and the eclectic style of the city, from bustling offices to multi-ethnic neighbourhoods. This isn't the L.A. usually depicted on-screen; these people live far from the sleek, glamourous Hollywood sheen, and the film feels far more realistic as a result. It also helps that every scene is carefully staged to focus on the characters and their interaction, rather than what's happening in the plot.
At the centre is the father-son relationship, nicely underplayed by Ramamurthy and Seth. These men love each other but certainly don't know each other as well as they think they do. And the connection between them is further pushed by the links they have with others. Meanwhile, Steenburgen, Freeman and Raymund (as a colleague of Sid's that he's interested in) are much more than catalysts: they're complicated characters with lives of their own, adding wrinkles to Ashok's and Sid's stories while taking their own journeys.
Director Pailoor and his cowriter Pradhan refuse to engage in a pushy narrative structure, letting events unfold at an unusually organic pace. Even though there are a few events that feel like they might inject a major plot line, the film remains deliberately character-based right to the end, which means that it has a complexity rarely seen in relationship dramas. Unfortunately, this soft approach will also limit the film's appeal, even though even the most cynical viewers will find this more satisfying than the usual formulaic dramas that clog up the multiplexes.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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