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.