Review Date: 4.19.05
Now playing at the Del Mar and directed by Danny Boyle, who also directed Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, Millions is a strange little story about two young brothers in the north of England who discover, well, millions, as a leather bag sails from what seems like heaven to collide with an elaborate cardboard box house built by the younger of the two boys, not insignificantly named Damian (played by Alexander Etel, and so amazingly well it's downright scary).
Damian is a strange kid. He sees and talks to some of the most luridly martyred saints in Roman Catholic lore and this event is enough to convince him that he's got a direct line to God. The back-story is that the boys' mother has died and their father moves them to a new, nicer house. Anthony, the older brother, acts out his mourning cynically, becoming a calculating economic rationalist who eventually gives way to some rage, while Damian becomes otherworldly, conferring a kind of religious exceptionality upon himself to help him cope. At the same time, there's an economic, political and historical context: the UK in this fable is about to convert to Euros, so the enormous sum that has fallen upon the boys must be spent or converted in a short period of time. Anthony buys himself servants, bodyguards, gadgets, transportation, attention from the girls and even real estate, while Damian casts about for poor people to help, goofily lighting upon the Seventh Day Adventists, a crowd of homeless folks whom he treats to pizza, and then the two beneficiaries who figure out what's going on and trigger the action/suspense dimension of the film.
Meanwhile Dad (played by James Nesbitt) falls in love with a woman who comes to the boys' elementary school to collect money for people dying of thirst in Africa (Dorothy, played by Daisy Donovan). That's probably the broadest brush economic and political satire of the movie: using a bizarre principle of pound to euro conversion whereby there'll be a few pennies left over that will be worthless currency in England, but of course, will restock a village in Africa, Dorothy sends around a garbage can robot to collect the children's change, into which, of course, Damian puts something like a thousand pounds, triggering the father's discovery of the boys' dangerous secret.
There's no pinning down the genre; at first I thought heartwarming, but of course it's also political and social satire, and then there's the action/suspense plot. All interspersed with what we used to call magical realism but which, in this most Christian of eras, is probably now something like Christian realism of the most hallucinatory sort. It's wonderfully funny, thanks to Etel and Lewis McGibbon (Anthony). Their lines are priceless, as are their antics. It's also quite moving about the work of mourning and the children's coming to terms with the realization that their parent has moved on. Splendidly acted, smart, and moving; Millions seems like a great combination of entertainment and food for thoughtŠuntil the ending, which is so incredibly bizarre I can't make heads or tails of it. You'll see, and maybe you can figure it out: is the Christianity supposed to be satire too, or is God really on Damian's side. And, does it matter?
Looking for trouble at the movies, for KUSP and the film gang, this is Carla Freccero.