Director: Jinu V. Abraham
Cast: Prithviraj Sukumaran, Mishti, Rahul Madhav, Bhavana
When a bloody hand crawls to the dashboard of a vehicle parked in what appears to be the middle of nowhere — though it’s actually someplace in Scotland — the pulse quickens. This is the opening scene of Jinu V. Abraham’s Adam Joan, and the plot points that follow suggest more excitement. A killing. A kidnapping. Hints of child trafficking, paedophilia — perhaps even devil worship. (What is it with Prithviraj and supernatural thrillers this year? First, Ezra. Now, this.) But the film is a crushing bore — it works neither as drama, nor as a mood piece, and certainly not as a thriller.
The biggest problem is that of pace. We get a clue in an early stretch set in and around a church. All we’re meant to register is that a family has gathered to hear their little girl sing. But on and on it goes. This is the first flashback (we began with that bloody hand, remember?), and soon we get a second — now, we follow Adam (Prithviraj, who cannot seem to decide whether to slip into character or stand out as a star) and his completely underwhelming romance with Amy (Mishti). The setup is interminable — everything seems to be happening in slow motion. This isn’t just a feeling. Take away the slo-mo scenes from this nearly three-hour film and we might have had 120 crackling minutes of suspense and chills.
Usually, these films tease us with red herrings, but here, we know the who, what, why right after the interval, which leaves an entire second half without an iota of surprise
The score adds to the sense of being trapped in a room without exits — when it’s not a mournful, drawn-out cello, it’s a mournful, drawn-out chorus. (The songs are speed breakers too, but at least there aren’t that many.) I think the intention was to make a classy product. When Adam and Amy make love (in slow motion), the camera pans (in slow motion) to a fireplace, with an out-of-focus bottle of wine placed just so in the corner of the frame. Speaking of the camera, it hams from start to finish. Even a simple meeting in a college is filmed with a shot that swoops into the session, like an eagle landing. There are so many helicopter shots that the film begins to look like an advertisement for Scottish greenery.
The suffocating style is complemented by meh content. The psychology — the issues between Adam and his brother (Rahul Madhav), a woman’s (Bhavana) yearning for a child — is barely scratched. And even the mystery is hardly a mystery. Usually, these films tease us with red herrings, but here, we know the who, what, why right after the interval, which leaves an entire second half without an iota of surprise. Filmmakers seem to think that new themes and settings are in themselves an end, but while it’s fascinating to learn about how the Scottish police work or how cults operate, I don’t need to watch a movie for that. I just need to look up Wiki.