Thalluri crafts a chiselled gem
His debut 2:37 walks away with all the accolades, writes Saibal Chatterjee.
A late addition to the Un Certain Regard section of the ongoing 59th Cannes Film Festival, Murali K Thalluri's debut feature 2:37, is walking away with all the accolades and not without reason.
The strong impact stems as much from the first-time director's consistent control over the grim narrative material as from the magnificent camerawork by co-producer and cinematographer Nick Matthews.
2:37, dedicated to a friend of Thalluri's who committed suicide in much the same manner in which one of the characters in the film does, is an astoundingly flawless, haunting piece of cinema that presents an insightful study of a day in the lives of six students grappling with the life-sapping angst of growing up in a seemingly hostile milieu.
Thalluri erects an unusual and dauntingly difficult narrative structure. The story ends with a horrific suicide in a toilet, but in the film, that particular act of violent self-annihilation comes right at the outset. The identity of the dead student isn't revealed.
The film journeys back to the start of the day, and follows the key characters through an emotionally and psychologically harrowing day in school. There is no way of telling who among these boys and girls would take the extreme step of opting out of life – each of them has a good enough reason.
The storyline straddles multiple strands – peer pressure, academic demands, sexual jealousy, incestuous rape, unwanted pregnancy, suppressed homosexuality, and physical disability. It's a slice of life drama and you each of the characters is real and his or her problems tangible.
The nerdish Marcus, his pretty sister Melody, the campus hunk Luke, the domesticated Sarah, the physically challenged Steven and the overtly gay Sean – they all have something to hide and the fear of facing their demons gnaws away at their very core.
Empathy is the dominant theme here. Thanks to the way the camera, using long tracking shots, weaves its way through and around the characters with a sense of intimacy and the black and white confessional statements that are strewn across the film, gives the audience a rounded view of each of the characters without wasting any space or time.
2:37 announces the arrival of a filmmaker with a truly original approach to the medium.