Hindi Medium ** ½
Dir: Saket Chaudhary
Starring: Irrfan Khan, Saba Qamar, Deepak Dobriyal, Tilottama Shome, Amrita Singh
Hindi Medium addresses India’s (and Pakistan’s) obsession with the English language and “English Medium” education and the lengths which parents go to to get their children into the best (i.e. English Medium and private) schools. The film’s light-hearted first half works reasonably well and elicits the occasional chuckle (though it is never quite laugh-out funny) as the self-made Raj (Irrfan Khan) and his better educated wife, Meeta (our own Saba Qamar) try desperately to get their daughter, Piya, into a prestigious educational institution. Various scenes will ring familiar to a number of parents – standing in long, overnight queues to get your hands on an application form; hiring an admission expert (Tilottama Shome) to coach your child (and yourself); facing a haughty and imperious principal (Amrita Singh) – and Khan, Qamar and director Saket Chaudhary’s light touch keeps the momentum rolling (Qamar, though, slightly overplays her hand in a couple of scenes). The movie also has fun with Meeta’s obsession with moving up the social ladder, Raj being quite content with who and what he is.
However, notwithstanding Deepak Dobriyal’s outstanding work (the best performance in the movie) as Raj and Meeta’s good-hearted poor neighbour, the movie loses some of its credibility when the plot has Raj and Meeta moving into a poverty stricken locality so as to get Piya admission through the “needy” quota. The messaging becomes heavy handed, ultimately leading to a completely unrealistic, hit-you-over-the-head preachy climax. As such, the movie doesn’t live up to its potential.
Cut to chase: Has its moments but never quite takes off.
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Manchester By The Sea
Dir: Kenneth Lonergan
Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges, Gretchen Mol, Matthew Broderick
Casey Affleck turns in a superbly controlled performance in writer/director Kenneth Lonergan’s magnificent and touching study of guilt and grief. He plays Lee Chandler, a quiet handyman who has suppressed all feeling (why becomes eventually clear in a series of flashbacks) but in whom anger and an unspoken death wish lie simmering just underneath the surface.
Lee returns to his home town of the title from nearby Boston when he learns of his brother’s death and has to assume guardianship of his sixteen year old nephew, a role that he is decidedly unprepared for and a responsibility he is unwilling to take. As uncle and nephew (Lucas Hedges) figure out their new relationship, Lonergan gives us a number of natural, undramatic (but, nonetheless, effective) scenes with some unexpected bits of quiet humour. Longergan also ends the movie with the very faintest ray of light. But there is no easy redemption (unlike most Hollywood fare) here – Lonergan knows that there are some tragedies from there is no coming back and there are some voids in your soul which may never be filled. This is brought home in a key scene between Lee and his ex-wife (Michelle Williams) where she hopes for mutual forgiveness and to bring some kind of resolution to their shattered lives. This is a bleak landscape – both literally and figuratively – and the winter seems never-ending.
Manchester by the Sea received six nominations at this year’s Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Affleck), Best Supporting Actor (Hedges), Best Supporting Actress (Williams) and Best Original Screenplay and eventually taking the honours in the Best Actor and Original Screenplay categories.
Cut to chase: Tough viewing but beautifully realised.
Rating system: *Not on your life ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection