Director: Alvin Henry
Writers: Benyamin (screenplay), Alvin Henry (story), GR Indugopan (screenplay)
Cast: Malavika Mohanan, Mathew Thomas, Sminu Sijo
A teenage boy falls in love with an older woman. This narrative has been dealt with complex depths before, across the world. Alvin Henry’s story (based on true events) set in Poovar had to be bringing something new to the table. What works in favour of the film is that it isn’t as sensational as the promotional material and reaction to it have been.
The screenplay, penned by Benyamin and GR Indugopan, has a distinct separation that splits the narrative into two proper halves. The first half only presents the by-the-numbers basics of a familiar story, with the simplest of beats being dramatised by a busy score, but at the same time, all of it is presented in a rather unhurried, confident pace. The second half is when the film comes into its own, and is probably why Alvin wanted to tell this story. But the problem is that there’s only a semblance of complexity there, rather than something of an affecting nature.
Now I get it, this is somebody’s truth, let’s even say it’s been told as-is, but it still doesn’t make up for the fact that the writing lacks cohesion and clarity in its emotions to make for an engaging screenplay. There are two major points in Roy’s journey – him confessing (and proposing) to Christy and him kissing Christy (without her consent). Post both of these events, we cut to Roy’s state of mind, or montages focused on him. We never get inside Christy’s head to hear or feel what she’s thinking, nor do we get her true reaction to these advances. It’s all left unanswered, probably because this entire film is only meant to be Roy’s version of events. He’s building castles out of thin air in his head. He’s watching Gautham Menon’s Vaaranam Aayiram (2008) and we’re shown that he wishes to pull off similar grand gestures. Even the background score is following and reacting to his state of mind alone. The Christy in the title is not a woman with her own individuality. It is the Christy living inside Roy’s head.
The irrationality of a teenager’s unrequited feelings and the way he lets himself get carried away by them is what the film seems to get right. He does know her emotional situation, yet will only dwell upon his feelings for her. “This friendship is my only respite in these times,” she says, but Roy can only take away what his heart wants to take away. He even says that he understands that this is about her choice and interest too, but he still won’t act like it. Even the brewing of his feelings for her is quite organic, set off by friends who teasingly pair them up together. This depth at which we get to observe him isn't lent to Christy, and that becomes the film’s undoing.
Mathew Thomas as Roy is an inspiring casting choice, even for the limitations he brings to the table. His fumbling and moments of blankness do get repetitive, but surprisingly this also makes it easier to buy the naivety of someone his age. I believe he’s got some more ground to cover as a performer to hold attention with a character of this length and breadth. Malavika Mohanan’s presence is pleasant, but my reaction to her performance stops there. She’s playing a character whose inner motivations are never revealed. She’s a persistent presence in Roy’s life, one who is also probably assuming that he has the maturity to deal with her non-reaction to all of his advances. One could interpret that she’s got a seemingly messy psyche too, but we also never get to see any ups and downs in her personality over time. That’s also probably by design(?), but it doesn’t help the film that a very limited actor is playing this murky role.
This is a film that can only be read in retrospect. Since it’s such a one-sided narrative, it gets frustrating to constantly second-guess the makers’ intentions. At times, one might even wonder if they’re glorifying Roy’s actions and putting Christy down for using him. But thankfully, the finale at the airport makes for the film’s most interesting stretch. This is where Roy’s castles come crashing down, and the film tries to truly perceive him as a delusional boy being persistent way past the point of foolishness. The drama here is driven by logistical issues, pertaining to immigration procedures, and the anxiety and exasperation are quite well done, but all of these strong strokes of direction come a little too late in a narrative that has already overstayed its welcome.
The film throws another curveball towards the end of the climax, with an adult, a woman, telling Christy something along the lines of “You know how to love, otherwise you wouldn’t have made it this far”. I honestly don’t know what to make of this. None of the adults around him seems to put sense into his irrational decisions - the priest had an opportunity, but even he only had some schmaltzy thing to say about going the distance for love. This ensures that we don’t know what Roy is going to take away from this whole experience. Is he going to resent his teenage self’s naivety or is he going to resent Christy’s indecisiveness (on being put in a spot by him)?
As an attempt to answer that, the film ends with imagery of a struggling fish that washes up ashore, being pulled back into the waters by tides. Has Roy learned to love himself after the whole ordeal? Does it imply that since he knows how to love, he will get by with life after this coming-of-age experience? I couldn’t tell. As an idea, I see how this story could’ve been fascinating for the lengths of obsessive love that it holds, but the huge distance between the weightage given to the two characters makes for a rather ambiguous, and tedious film-watching experience.