Love Movie Review: A clever Hitchcockian puzzle
The film's final moments make you see the story from a wholly new perspective
Khalid Rahman's Love is the kind of film that should be carefully handled during social media discussions because even a minute detail could be a potential spoiler. Given the twisty nature of the narrative, I've kept this review as spoiler-free as possible.
Love is mainstream Malayalam cinema's answer to chamber drama classics such as Sleuth (1972) or Alfred Hitchcock's Rope. The film is propelled by a dark incident which becomes a jumping-off point to explore its characters' psyche. We get minimal characters interacting inside a closed space, and the discussions have a layer of dark humour.
Shine Tom Chacko gets the ball rolling, as a man trying hard to contain an explosive situation. But things get increasingly challenging when more characters show up, and he scrambles to protect his secret at all costs. They, too, have secrets. Slowly, they reveal themselves as kindred spirits and look to him as though he is a shrink who can get them out of their mess. But he doesn't want them there. He hopes to get rid of them as soon as possible, but it seems the only way to achieve this is by being their therapist for a brief period.
Director: Khalid Rahman
Cast: Shine Tom Chacko, Rajisha Vijayan, Veena Nandakumar, Gokulan, Sudhi Koppa
But then, it gradually evolves into a group therapy session. Now we sense our anxiety increasing too. Since the characters discuss anxiety, suicide, and infidelity, I would be remiss if I did not include a trigger warning. A clash of varying ideas and thoughts occur as the men - Shine Tom Chacko, Gokulan, Sudhi Koppa - pour their hearts out to each other. The women - Rajisha Vijayan and Veena Nandakumar - are at the heart of these discussions. Everyone seems to be troubled by marital discord.
Beneath its various twists and turns, and the overall mystery thriller vibe, Love essentially explores the male thought process. The skillful blending of the mystery and relationship drama evokes the best of Asghar Farhadi.
Last year, CU Soon became the first Malayalam film to be shot and completed during the pandemic. Love followed later. Having seen both, I can safely say these two films show us that sometimes limitations can give birth to smarter films. Like CU Soon, Love makes the best use of a single location. But the advantage here is the characters are interacting face to face, and never once do we feel the constraints as the actors ensure they are doing enough to keep us occupied.
Cinematographer Jimishi Khalid and editor Noufal Abdullah (also co-writer) use inventive angles to capture the characters' actions and reactions. The music of Neha Nair and Yakzan Gary Pereira (of Driving Licence fame) combined with the ambient sounds by Rajakrishnan and Vignesh Kishan Rajeesh effectively crank up the tension and, in the process, our discomfort.
Though I was impressed by the cleverness of the whole idea, the abruptness of the final twist caught me a bit off guard despite its completeness. But the preceding moments are staged in such a way that they make you see the story from a wholly new perspective, and could give you the urge to see the film again to gain a better understanding of what you just witnessed.