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Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Canada

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Millions

Chris Campbell

Millions
It wasn't really about the money.

I usually see films that I like more than once, but not usually in the same week. I saw Millions for the second time today, this time with my son, John. He liked it as well. The film kicked off the ViewFinders Film Festival for Youth in Halifax last Thursday as the opening gala and it was a great film to start that festival off. Danny Boyle has a great visual sense that comes through in all of his films. They're quirky and exciting and have generally covered topics that tended toward the seedier side of human existence. What's fascinating about Boyle's films is that you can see elements that are common to all of them in terms of subjects, characters, themes and visual elements. Interesting things will be discovered and then show up in other ways in sometimes drastically different contexts. I've seen most of the films that Danny Boyle has directed (with the exception of The Beach) and I've enjoyed them all.
With Millions it seems as if things are lightly and perfectly balanced. The extremes of horror and relentless pacing were hit with 28 Days Later, characters and situations went to extremes with Shallow Grave and Trainspotting, mixing the divine and the secular with A Life Less Ordinary, and the visual limits were reached with the duo of Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise and Strumpet. With the Editor (Chris Gill) and Director of Photography (Anthony Dod Mantle) from his last few films it's not too showy and it all mixes into a magical story where a young boy balances the advice of saints and his family in what to do with a lot of money that fell from the sky.
The casting is just right with Alex Etel as the narrator and main character. Etel has an innocence that carries the film as he tries to figure out the world. He reacts instead of acting and we're watch the struggles of a young boy and not someone trying to be cute. The subtlety and innocence of the main character goes through the entire film which cleverly combines faith, money, morality and loss with a slight covering of melodrama. With a script by Frank Cottrell Boyce (who also wrote 24 Hour Party People) it seems that the words and images fit perfectly. Looking at an excerpt from Boyce's novel of the same name, it's striking how clearly the voice of Damien comes through.
It's rare to see a film now that criticises commercialism without seeming to be filled with product placement. It's an odd thing, but while there are some logos visible through the film, you never have the feeling that the point is being made too obviously or in bad faith. The critical aspect of the relationship that a film has with an audience is that of trust. If you trust the filmmakers you will follow them where they take you since you feel as if you are safe. You can feel safe and still be moved by a film which is quite an achievement.
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