Across the Ocean Movie Review: A breezy drama about self-love and independence
A film without lofty aspirations, even though its characters harbour them
Whenever you find yourself asking a "Am I the only one who...?" type question on social media, there is always someone to tell you that there is at least one other person on this planet who feels the same way. Across the Ocean, directed by Uma Kumarapuram and Nicole Donadio, explores this emotion. What if two people in two different parts of the world are longing for the same thing? And what if they have similarly opposing forces standing in their way? The Malayalam-English indie feature speaks to, perhaps more than anyone else, those who constantly feel they were born in the wrong part of the world.
We meet Nila (Apoorva Bose), an IT professional who has one goal, to migrate to the US. After getting engaged to a guy employed in the US, she is eager to get married as soon as possible. Their wedding, though, is two years away. She is restless. Besides, she is slacking at work, and her manager isn't too pleased. It's a job Nila despises, and Apoorva expresses her frustration with much conviction. For Nila, the prospect of living in the US is more enticing. When an opportunity to be part of a training program that could do wonders for her career arrives, she declines, a decision she comes to regret later.
Directors: Uma Kumarapuram, Nicole Donadio
Cast: Apoorva Bose, Anna Jaller, Muthumani, Austin Arnold, Sreeram Ramachandran
Streaming on: Cinemapreneur
Meanwhile, Holly (Anna Jaller) is going through similar feelings in the US. She is someone who constantly has the urge to visit India. Nila has a piece of clothing stitched with the American flag, while Holly opts for Indian food at an American restaurant. However, Holly and Nila have two different personalities. The latter is the sort of quirky, hyperactive, and single-minded character that you might find annoying, but Apoorva doesn't play Nila as a stock character. She is often called crazy by her best friend and family members because she is obsessed with America. It's when you near the film's climax that you find yourself relating to Nila's resolve more. "It's okay to be a little crazy," she tells her friend. Holly, on the other hand, is relatively more level-headed and easy-going.
The two characters in Across the Ocean may come across as selfish to some, but this is about self-love and finding a way to fulfil your wishes without relying on anyone else. I loved that. The talk of Indian women depending on their men for fulfilling their wishes comes up a few times. Nila is that woman in the beginning but morphs into an independent woman towards the end. There is a scene where she discusses this subject with a relative, Gayathri (Muthumani), who laments the lack of travel and how her mother used to vacation abroad when her father was alive. Now that she is alone, she doesn't dare to venture out of her comfort zone. Some of you may see your mothers in her.
Though both Holly and Nila are strong characters, it's Nila who gets the film's most entertaining moments. Perhaps it's because she has more people to deal with than Holly. Nila is the sort of character who will make her presence known wherever she goes. And Apoorva is quite effective with humour, although it's not of the laughing out loud variety. I wonder how Holly would've reacted if caught in the same situation as Nila.
When Nila decides to be her own person, there is a bit of resistance from her parents and her fiance. And 9000 miles away, Holly is dreaming of greener pastures, literally and figuratively. When a golden opportunity, which requires her to move to India, lands on her lap, she is thrilled. But her medical intern boyfriend isn't. I liked that he is not a selfish character or a stereotypically dramatic boyfriend. He has his understandable reasons for not wanting to let her go. There is a scene where Holly sits down to break the news to her parents, and they don't behave too differently from Nila's folks.
My favourite moment is when Holly's parents ask her about something and she elects to avoid drama by simply saying she is not in the mood to discuss it at that particular moment. Clever. But at the same time, I wished the American segments had a little more life in them. Oh, and a lower ISO value on the camera would've helped too.
Across the Ocean is not a film with lofty aspirations, even though its characters harbour them. A comfortable duration of around 82 minutes aids in the swift narration of a largely light-hearted drama. The overall tension can be described best as nothing bigger than something created by a child when denied a toy. Nothing wrong with being childish occasionally, is there?