Prasanna Vithnage's latest feature is a slow-moving but ultimately touching drama about a marriage doomed by ethnic conflict.

Transposing Dostoyevsky’s 1876 short story “The Meek One” to civil-war-torn modern Sri Lanka, Prasanna Vithnage’s latest feature “With You, Without You” is a slow-moving but ultimately touching drama about a marriage doomed by ethnic conflict. Handsome small-scale production should pick up some favorable notices and scattered niche sales in extensive fest travel.

Sarathsiri (Shyam Fernando) plies his trade as a pawnbroker in a dusty burg in the country’s center, keeping a cold distance from his needy clients, with neither friends nor family to relieve his self-imposed solitude. Yet he thaws (as much as he’s able) after repeat visits from Eashwari (Anjali Patil), a beautiful young woman sent to board with unsympathetic relatives by parents who fear for her safety in the north, where Tamil rebels fight government troops. The two marry, but when she discovers her tightly wound husband’s secret past, the union seems unsustainable. Fernando’s one-note performance muffles the impact of eventual tragedy, but the pic’s occasional longueurs are made palatable by intimate but attractive presentation wrapped in pastel shades of blue by production designer Rob Nevis.

With You, Without You

Sri Lanka-India

Production

A Delft Films and Nomad presentation of a Prasanna Vithanage production. (International sales: Prasanna Vithanage Prods., Maththegoda, Sri Lanka.) Produced by Lasantha Nawaratha, Mohamed Adamaly. Executive producers, Iranthi Abeysinghe, Rahul Roy, Sunil Fonseka, Nadira Adamaly. Directed, written by Prasanna Vithanage, based on the short story "The Meek One" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Crew

Camera (color), M.D. Mahindapala; editor, A. Sreekar Prasad; music, Lakshman Joseph de Saram; production designer, Rob Nevis; sound, Tapas Nayak. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (World Greats), Aug. 30, 2012. Running time: 93 MIN.

With

Shyam Fernando, Anjali Patil, Wasantha Moragoda, Maheshwarie Ratnam. (Sinhalese, Tamil dialogue)

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