Review: ‘Unni: Life Is All About Friends’

Childhood mischievousness is mixed with sadness and joy in episodic rural Indian pic.

Childhood mischievousness is mixed with sadness and joy in episodic rural Indian pic “Unni: Life Is All About Friends.” Seasoned helmer Murali Nair foregoes his usual satirical themes with this amiable low-budget, ethnography-flavored effort. Set in a Kerala village, yarn about schoolboy pranks, sexual curiosity and a friend’s domestic tragedy has considerable appeal beyond its rough facade. Fests looking to satisfy devotees of Indian parallel cinema will want a peek, but pic is also kiddie fest-friendly.

Eight-year old schoolboy Unni (Kumar K. Sarath) lives with his mother in a remote Kerala village. With his father working in Dubai, the boy lacks a guiding hand, and his friendship with rascally, underprivileged classmate Gopi (V.N. Ajith) and falling grades raise concern. The boys get up to the usual tricks (peeping on girls, being truant, etc.), but beguiling perfs from nonpro tykes lift pic beyond mere indulgence. Final reels pack an emotional punch that suggest a blurring of fact and fiction. Helming is rudimentary, but captures the charm of the pint-sized cast. Tech credits are likewise unsophisticated, but do the job.

Unni: Life Is All About Friends

India-France-U.K.-South Korea-Netherlands-Switzerland

Production

A Patou Films Intl. (France)/Maya Films (India)/Flying Elephant Films (U.K.) co-production, in association with Fonds Sud Cinema, CNC (Ministere de la Culture), Ministere des Affaires des Etrangeres (France)/Pusan Promotion Plan (South Korea)/Hubert Bals Development Fund (Netherlands)/Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (Switzerland). (International sales: Flying Elephant Films, London.) Produced by Jean Roke Patoudem, Murali Nair. Directed by Murali Nair. Screenplay, Nair, Bharathan Njarakkal.

Crew

Camera (color), Jean Marc Selva; editor, Laliitha Krishna; music, Marayan Mani. Reviewed at Sydney Film Festival, June 11, 2007. Original title: Unni. Malayalam dialogue. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Kumar K. Sarath, V.N. Ajith, N.L. Noble, T.S. Likhil, Kodakara Sukumaran, Sreedharan, Vypin Lenin, Rajan Engakkad, Leela Hari.
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