Thursday, May 5, 2016

James & Alice (2016)

Director: Sujith Vasudev
Writer:    Dr. S. Janardhanan
Cast:       Prithviraj, Vedhika
Language: Malayalam

James is an orphan and an artist without a steady job. Alice belongs to a wealthy family and whose father objected to his daughter getting married to a person without, what society considers as, stability. They decide to get married anyway and the marriage ends up compromising both of them as James have to settle for directing low grade commercials while being not all that happy with his life overall. The film begins in the present with them having a kid aged 6 years and their marriage in crisis. The backstory is told through flashbacks during the first half.

Sujith Vasudev is the latest in following the Malayalam cinema trend of cinematographers becoming directors. Usually they follow a visual way of telling a story and gives less importance to script. James and Alice is not such a case as, even though the visuals are striking, the story is largely told through the spoken language. Film deals with a subject and is presented in a style that is quite hard normally to pull off but it manages to do so quite effectively. There is enough clues in the trailer to suggest that an accident is involved as a pivotal point  and it happens just before the interval. This is where Sujith Vasudev, the cinematographer, shows off his skills. The second half of the film takes a turn which is quite familiar for Malayalees now after the success of Renjith's 'Pranchiyettan & the Saint'. It is then a look back at their life and how things could have been.

The best thing about the film is that you don't get a binary portrayal of the chief protagonists like in most Malayalam/Indian films. The first half is done in such a style that audience will find both James and Alice to be quite culpable for the state their marriage is in. Since it is told largely from the perspective of James, we might feel that he is quite hard done by Alice. But this works well in the second half as it is kind of told from the other side even though we still see it through James' eyes albeit with the intervention of a third person. The accident takes place while they are on the verge of a divorce and even during the divorce proceedings it is as if James is willing it to happen even though it is Alice who is taking the initiative.    

Overall it is a very good watch which deals with a subject matter that is very less dealt with well by Malayalam films. There is enough complexity to it characters to make them appear three-dimensional. The second half of the film could have very well turned out to be very preachy but there is enough cynicism from James to make it appear as if it is not. At close to 165 minutes, it is quite longer than it should be by about 20 minutes. The first two or three songs in it were helpful in moving the story forward but the ones that follow are quite problematic during the second half as we start to feel the length of the film. The background music is also quite overbearing at times but the theme music used in the trailer is quite good. The performances from all concerned are surprisingly excellent even though Prithviraj is still playing his normal smug mode in the first half. It will be box office success if the family audience takes to it which they should do, ideally. 

Rating: 3.5/5