(PG-13) 4 StarsEd Johnson-Ott
Millions, the fanciful new film by 28 Days Later and Trainspotting director Danny Boyle, is a family-friendly tale about what happens when a bag of cash flies through the air and into the hands of a little boy who believes it is a gift from God. From left: Alex Etel and Jane Hogarth
At the advance screening I attended, there was a hearty round of applause when the story reached its end, a rare (and not exactly logical) occurrence in a movie theater. But I noticed that a few families walked out during the screening. I suspect this was because they came expecting traditional family fare and became upset when Boyle's production insisted on coloring outside the lines.
Sometimes a film is best enjoyed when someone preps you a bit. So, whether you are a casual moviegoer or a parent trying to plan ahead, you should know that, while Millions is a dandy piece of entertainment, it is a bit different.
First off, though the story focuses on two young boys, it is not a children's movie. Millions is an independent film with the same edge as Danny Boyle's other works. The camerawork is just as inventive, the music just as well-selected and the characters are just as distinct.
As with Trainspotting, Boyle offers visualizations of notions from the lead character's head. In this case, that means saints, and lots of them. They hang around with our youthful hero, helping him sort things out. One of them even smokes ("You can do what you like up there," she explains).
The film includes British and Irish accents. I don't know why, but English, Scottish and Irish accents just scare the bejeesus out of some Midwesterners. Please rest assured, even if the mild accents throw you at first, you will adjust quickly.
Bottom line: Prepare yourself (and your children, if that applies) for a family-friendly movie a bit more sophisticated than the stuff Hollywood generally offers. Oh, and parents should explain to the kids how Europe switched their currency to the Euro recently.
Millions, written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, introduces us to 7-year-old Damian (Alex Etel) and his 9-year-old brother Anthony (Lewis McGibbon), who relocate to the suburbs in northern England with their father Ronnbie (James Nesbitt) following the death of their mother.
Anthony is typical for his age: active, unfocused, emotionally unaware and prone to snapping at younger brothers. Damian, on the other hand, is an utterly devote Catholic who spends his free time in a makeshift playhouse by the train tracks, talking with the various visiting saints he learned about in his library book. He invariably inquires about the status of his mother, because surely she will be elevated to sainthood any day now.
When a bag containing a great deal of money, thrown from a passing train, lands on the playhouse, Daniel accepts it as a gift from God. He doesn't tell Dad because Anthony says the government would demand 40 percent taxes from him. Instead, the boys handle the cash themselves - Anthony buys exactly what you would expect a boy his age to buy, while Damian starts giving the money to poor people.
This will not go easy, of course. One of the crooks (Christopher Fulford) comes looking for the money and it's only a matter of time before Dad, currently distracted by his new girlfriend Dorothy (Daisy Donovan), finds out what his sons have been up to.
Millions shows what happens when a gifted director gets free reign with a solid story and a talented cast (special praise is reserved for young Alex Etel, who is terrific in the lead role). How rare, and refreshing, it is to see a movie that deals with children, generosity and faith in an adult fashion.