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This absorbing story of India’s social divide takes the opposite tonal approach to Slumdog Millionaire – quiet and observant where Danny Boyle’s film was all button-pushing brashness. Director Chris Smith comes from a documentary background (he made the home-brewed horror chronicle American Movie), and builds up a convincing sense of place and character, getting non-professionals to essentially play themselves in this tale of a Goan hotel boy who starts getting ideas when he gazes upon a posh second-home complete with swimming pool.
After inveigling himself into working odd-jobs for the visiting wealthy owner, he strikes up a friendship with the man’s troubled teenage daughter, yet just when you think you know where the movie’s heading, Smith takes it to places you didn’t expect. Instead of an easy, predictable comment on the inequities which keep people apart, here’s a warm-hearted, insightful account of the genuine rewards of inner peace. This relatively unheralded gem is one of the year’s loveliest celluloid surprises. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)