Millions / Dustin Rowles
Film Reviews | May 12, 2006 | Comments ()
If you loved the morose and gut-wrenching A Simple Plan, but you found all the gruesome death scenes off-putting, the suicide finale a little too depressing, and the all-around tone of the film just a tad bleak for your taste, then Millions is probably tailor-made for you. It’s the sweetly saturated counter version of the money-falling-from-the-sky premise; when the inevitable shitstorm arrives, instead of a self-serious noirish morality play, Millions gives us not only a warm heart, but smiling Ethiopian children dancing in a well (!).
Set a the British version of a Tim Burton suburb, Millions concerns eight-year-old Damien (Alexander Nathan Etel) and his slightly older brother Anthony (Lewis Owen Gibbon) who stumble upon a bag of cash near the railroad tracks behind their house. Neither brother wants to reveal the discovery, especially to their recently widowed father, because of their humorously naïve fear they will have to give up a large portion to taxes. Damien, who has a Bill Jamesian knowledge of Saints, believes the money is a gift from God that he must use to serve the goodwill of humanity, by, for instance, procuring a few slices of pizza for the local hippie teenagers or by donating large sums of money to the Mormons, believing that he’ll get in God’s good graces by helping out the less fortunate. Anthony, conversely, just wants to buy cell phones, video games, and, of course, real estate.
For both, the point is mostly moot, because in Millions, God has a wicked sense of humor: The money from the sky is not only stolen, but it’s in the British Pound, a currency that will be completely worthless in a few days, when England converts to the Euro. At first, the boys endeavor to deal with the loot themselves, but when the secret is finally revealed to their father (James Nesbitt), he and his new girlfriend (Daisy Donovan) help the kids try to convert as much money to the Euro as possible, and spend the rest, all the while being trailed by the thug (Christopher Fulford) originally responsible for the money’s theft.
Working from a script by Frank Cottrell Boyce (Hilary and Jackie), the story echoes director Danny Boyle’s own Shallow Grave, where a similar windfall consumes three flatmates.Millions, however, is a gentler story, a rousing religious parable in which spirituality and faith trump evil and greed, delivering the message in earnest, non-icky terms. Though the story is simple, Boyle deftly tackles it with inspired whimsy, creating a beautiful and moving film without dipping into aggressive sentimentality. Boyle astutely infuses every scene with a quirky charm that envelopes the audience, sucking us into an imaginative world so convincingly that — instead of eliciting dumfounded guffaws — dancing Ethiopian children are a source of joyful tears.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York.