Appan Movie Review: A realistic and relatable drama on dysfunctional families
The star of the show is definitely Alencier. Despite restricted movements, the actor consummately essays the role of Itty
The initial scenes of Appan introduce us to a family, in which the daily discussion primarily revolves around the much-anticipated demise of the paralysed Itty (Alencier Ley Lopez). While their minds yearn for the death of the depraved patriarch —a womaniser, abuser and a cheater — their hearts want to protect him. This film critically examines the nitty-gritty of toxic parent-child relationships, through two father-son equations and the prolonged trauma of their dysfunctional family dynamics expressed through a raw and realistic portrayal.
Cast: Alencier Ley Lopez, Sunny Wayne, Pauly Valsan, Ananya, Grace Antony
Streamer: Sony Liv
Set in the hilly terrains of Thoduppuzha, Appan follows a resettled Christian family — Itty, his wife Kuttiyamma (Pauly Valsan), their son Njoonj (Sunny Wayne), Njoonj's wife Rosy (Ananya), and their son Abel. Njoonj, a victim of long-term parental abuse, makes his living by tapping rubber. He wants two things in his life —a peaceful life for his mother and a better family setting for his son. Kuttiyamma has been withstanding Itty's abuse and torture to ensure her son gets a recompense. While the family awaits the death of Itty to get their share of the property, the villagers too chart out plans to kill him for all the troubles he has caused them.
What follows is a series of occurrences that escalate the pressure on the family and how one event changes their lives forever.
Filmmaker Maju and co-writer Jayakumar have given much detail to the characters. Njoonj exhibits his vulnerability, especially in the scenes with his son. Even at the height of his anger, Njoonj doesn't express it with his little son. The struggle to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma is beautifully staged. Another intriguing aspect of Njoonj's character is how he does not reenact the trauma he faced. However, at one point, when he loses his temper and takes on his father violently, his mother reveals that she fears he may inherit his father's legacy of sins. The pressing remark makes him more aware and sensitive.
Pauly Valsan as the tormented Kuttiyama wonderfully portrays the unhealed scars of abuse, torture and ill-treatment. It is a very unsettling and poignant moment when she says she wants to go to the cemetery to rest as she never got to retire in her life.
On the other hand, Ananya is back with a bang. Her nuanced reactions and coherency in dialogue delivery are effective. Grace Antony, who plays Molly, Njoonj's sister, shines despite the limited runtime. Interestingly, the makers draw a subtle parallel between the needs of two married women, Molly and Rosy. While Molly is at her mother's home to unwind, Rosy is exhausted by the drama and wants to visit her maternal house.
The star of the show is definitely Alencier. Despite restricted movements, the actor consummately essays the role of Itty. We feel agitated by his lewd and nasty language and are disgusted by his immoral behaviour. Itty's sexist and chauvinistic character makes us want to hate him more and more. The audience too soon understands the emotional rollercoaster that the rest of the family has been riding for years. A newcomer Radhika, plays Sheela, a crucial role in the film. She excels at it with her phenomenal performance, particularly in the final act.
Appan's realistic portrayal is the result of the makers' diligence to capture even the most minute details, such as the dialect, cultural elements, lifestyle, and more. The layers in the story also reflect the makers' sound understanding of socio-psychological subjects, observation of interpersonal relationships, and other institutions.
Even though the film is shot in a confined space — an old Christian mansion and the rubber estate surrounding it — some riveting long shots and mid-tight shots familiarise us with the locality and emotions of the characters. The melancholy music strikes the right chord with the audience by elevating the film's mood.
It was refreshing to see the film break out of the cliches like the heel-face turn trope, or the obnoxious bond between in-laws. Even though the focus is on the intergenerational facet of the father-son relationship, Appan darts on a subtle yet striking female camaraderie as Sheela, Rossy, and Kuttiyamma stand for each other at their darkest phase.
Meanwhile, there are also considerable loopholes, perhaps mysterious knots, for the audience to untie. However, the film works even without it. And following a heavy build-up, the introduction of an external factor as a villain-of-sorts in the final act could have landed better. However, with the heart in the right place, the sensibly executed ideas and reasonably good suspense elements outweigh these middling points.
Among the handful of analogies, one marked a stark impact and resounded the finesse in writing. There is a bulb at the house verandah, which can never be switched off and only leads to unnecessarily high electricity tariffs, just like Itty, who is no good for the family. At a vital point in the film, one of them removes the bulb, but later, in the end, Njoonj replaces it, marking the proverbial ray of light to a new dawn. After all, every ending leads to a new beginning.