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.