The Raindance East Film Festival continues today with a series of short films, an acclaimed animated feature from South Korea, a new British movie set and filmed on London housing estates and a chance for aspiring film makers and writers to pitch their ideas live and in person direct to the film industry.
There's also a chance to put questions to the man behind Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary, 28 Days Later and erm The Beach (but we won't hold that against him) - Danny Boyle. Last night we were lucky enough to rub shoulders with the man himself along with James Nesbitt for the opening night screening of their new film. How would you follow up a movie that gave us an apocalyptic London, salt of the earth cab drivers being riddled with machine gun fire, insane army majors and new fandangled FAST zombies? How about a feel good movie featuring child actors that can actually act and a barrage of Saints... keep reading after the jump for the low down on Millions.
The French have said au revoir to the franc, the Germans have said auf wiedersehen to the mark, and the Portugese have said... whatever to their thing...
So we're in the future, or at least an alternative version of England where the Eurosceptics have been beaten down and Leslie Phillips himself is on hand to remind us that only a few days remain before the good old British pound is worthless. Ding. Dong. Boyle's latest movie is a fantasy / feel good affair that hinges on a just a couple of performances and a flair for throwing the unexpected at the audience. It's tricky trusting a movie in the hands of kids, but Alexander Nathan Etel and Lewis Owen McGibbon are perfectly at ease in front of the camera and seem to effortlessly support the whole thing. Etel's role in particular - a ten year old who has visions of saints - could have gone very wrong, but he shoulders the proceedings with a charm and sense of wonder that is far removed from the saccharine sickness that plagues just about every American child actor.
Etel and McGibbon play brothers who move to a new area with their dad after their mum dies. Etel's Damian loses himself in his imagination, stopping to talk with Saints (who may or may not be real), first impressing them with his knowledge of religious trivia and then asking them if they've seen his mum - St Maureen. "What did she do?" asks one religious icon to which Damian says "She worked on the makeup counter at Selfridge's". It's the humour that stops the film from getting bogged down in sentimentality and McGibbon's slightly older / world-wise Anthony is the perfect foil to his over imaginative brother. So when a bag of money falls from the sky it's Anthony who sees the fiscal benefits - becoming almost Presidential at school and arranging to view property as an investment for their windfall - while Damian sets out to help the poor, believing that the cash came straight from God - "Who else would have that kind of money?"
Unfortunately for the brothers the answer to that question is Christopher Fulford's robber, who wants his money back before the introduction of the Euro makes it worthless. It's with his appearance that the film shifts gear. Before this it's been all fun and charm - the kids treating Big Issue sellers to a slap up feast at Pizza Hut or Damian (aided by St Nick himself) stuffing £20 notes through letterboxes. Fulford's character is full of menace and causes genuine anxiety for the audience who by that time just want the kids to get away with it.
Support comes from the more than able James Nesbitt as the boys' father still adjusting himself to the loss of their mother and Daisy Donovan basically playing herself (no bad thing) as a possible love interest. It's a shame that Nesbitt did those dire TV adverts for Yellow Pages as there are a couple of scenes where you expect him to reach for the phone book to help solve the problems that his kids are throwing at him, but aside from that there's not much here to criticise. Perhaps the epilogue is a reach too far, but it's forgivable as pretty much the whole of the prior 90 minutes is a joy to watch.
Millions is the perfect antidote to vapid British-set movies such as Closer or the gangster nonsense of movies like Layer Cake that seem to arrive in packs. It shows that Danny Boyle is still unafraid to take risks and his use of fantasy elements here is done with such a light touch that you wish Tim Burton would take some notes. It would be tricky to try and guess where Boyle goes next, but he's already announced another leftfield move by tackling Sunshine, a slice of Sci-Fi about an attempt to reignite the sun. Sounds like possible career suicide, but with a script by Alex Garland and 28 Days Later's Cillian Murphy (soon to be seen as the Scarecrow in Batman Begins) already onboard we're not too worried.
Note: Millions is only scheduled for a June release, but don't forget that Danny Boyle will be at a Q&A this Sunday following an interview and a screening of one of his movies. Full details on the Raindance East website.