Al Mallu Movie Review: Decent performances elevate this simple film
Al Mallu could have been a much better film had it polished some of its rough edges and been more focused
There are some films you instantly like regardless of their imperfections because they have characters you care about. Al Mallu, starring Namitha Pramod, is one such film. I went in with zero expectations, and despite it not being what one would call a 'world-class' film, Al Mallu turned out to be a pleasant surprise. In fact, I found it more watchable than a Malayalam superstar's latest release.
Director: Boban Samuel
Cast: Namitha Pramod, Harris, Dharmajan
Al Mallu is populated by a host of characters, each with a past. The film belongs to Namitha Pramod, who shines as the protagonist, Nayana. Her character goes through a rough experience courtesy a terrible guy whom she was supposed to get married to. When she breaks it off with him, he starts pestering her in other ways. Meanwhile, a new guy, Sreedhar (Harris) joins her workplace, and you can see where things are headed from a mile. But I liked how his relationship with Nayana is set up. I found their chemistry cute; there is some warmth to be found in their interactions. Sreedhar has a dark past — a reason for his shyness and awkwardness around women. I thought casting a newcomer was a smart choice because this is a character who has to appear clueless and uncomfortable most of the time. Some may see it as an acting flaw, but acting flaws or not, it's apt for the character. Perhaps this film would've worked a lot better if it were just about this romance alone.
Speaking of the romance, I'm surprised at how much Namitha manages to do with very little. She seems more confident and in control than in all her previous films, especially ones where she shared the screen with big names. In this film, the camera follows her closely and often succeeds in conveying Nayana's anxiety and disorientation. There is one particular moment in the film where she rejoins work and finds it difficult to focus, and Namitha makes the overwhelming pressure in that scene quite believable.
I also liked the bonding of a bunch of characters for whom "family isn't necessarily blood." Another admirable thing about the film is its restraint in terms of humour. Unlike most of his earlier films, Dharmajan provides some light moments without going overboard.
However, I still don't get why the film was set in the United Arab Emirates. Is it to show that girls aren't safe wherever they go? Or that some Malayalis are the same wherever they go (and create an image of disrepute for their fellow Malayalis)? Perhaps there is a business reason behind it. Anyway, Al Mallu could have been a much better film had it polished some of its rough edges, and been much more focused.
The film is here to say something, which could have conveyed in a subtler way rather than having an actor like Lal show up in an unnecessary wedding sequence and then slap a morality lecture on patriarchal men. This is a moment that could have been done by Namitha too. There were also scenes where I felt the actors could have improved their lines by slightly altering the tempo of their delivery (inconsistencies in dubbing?).
Al Mallu makes it clear from the get-go that it's not a film with lofty aspirations and so has to be treated as such. It's a small film that does a fairly decent job of selling its emotions. Even though its simple premise is not executed with sophistication, it is somewhat salvaged by the actors who are quite convincing as characters who are all broken in one way or the other. This film didn't give me a great feeling but it's a pleasant sensation all the same.