Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Funny Boy - Movie Review

The Movie: Funny Boy

The Director: Deepa Mehta

The Cast: Rehan Mudannayake, Arush Nand, Brandon Ingram, Nimmi Harasgama, Ali Kazmi, Agam Darshi, Seema Biswas, Shivantha Wijesinha

The Story: Explores Arjie's sexual awakening from a young boy to a teenager who falls in love with a male classmate, just as political tensions escalate between the Sinhalese and Tamils in the years leading up to the 1983 uprisings.

The Review:
This movie is based on the award winning novel of the same name by Shyam Selvadurai and was directed by award winning filmmaker Deepa Mehta and just that right there says, hey this is going to be a good movie! The story of a young Tamil boy growing into his sexuality while coming to understand the impact it would have on his family, their standing in the community, is an important one to understand and also considering that homosexuality was illegal in Sri Lanka where there movie is set.

To be honest, I knew nothing about the Tamil people or the Sinhala people or the tensions between them that caused so much turmoil and even led to riots in the early 80's so this was an eye opening story for a lot of different reasons. One of the best things you can do is learn about other cultures, other people, and other lifestyles and for me this was a pretty deep dive into the unknown. Deepa Mehta's adaptation of the novel is filled with so much culture and history, I will probably watch it multiple times just to take it all in. All of that and you get a beautiful drama dropped right into the middle of it all and the movie becomes so much more than the typical coming of age story you might be used to from Hollywood type movies.

“How can doing something I hate make me good?” - Arjie

It's interesting to see Arjie learn about who he is and who he is becoming at different stages of his life and all of it unfolds in a very authentic way. As a young boy he sees nothing wrong with wanting to play dress up and not wanting to play sports with the other boys and he just doesn't understand the logic or reasoning in people telling him to act a certain way and to behave in what is deemed to be an appropriate manner for boys to act. Hence the quote above. It's interesting that despite all of this he of course eventually succumbs to cultural norms and keeps his sexuality hidden which also makes sense because otherwise he would be in danger of physical harm, being shamed, or even being killed.

Watching this movie, it's pretty amazing to see how unbelievably difficult it can be just to be a human being let alone one that does not fit cultural or societal norms and I mean this in so many different ways. Sexuality and ethnicity are the primary topics in this movie although the lessons learned could really be applied in a lot of different ways. Arjie experiences bullying in several different ways, some of which comes from his own father, a man who is so afraid of anything happening that might jeopardize his family's safety. At first it might seem shallow and ignorant of him to look at life that way, but then we see the turmoil between the Tamil and Sinhala peoples and I started to understand the fear and oppression he felt and the need to protect the ones he loves.

Also, this movie is just absolutely beautiful to look at. Mehta, along with cinematographer Douglas Koch fill every frame with so much warmth and color and life, you almost feel like you could walk right onto the set whether it is one of the gorgeous and spacious homes or a waterfront vista that literally takes your breath away. This is definitely one of those movies that makes me miss the cinema experience, I would have loved to see all of the lush and vibrant details on a big screen format.

Oh and I also have to say that, in a movie filled with strong performances, Agam Darshi stands out as Arjie's Aunty Radha who is a bit of a free spirit herself and helps Arjie understand that it's perfectly okay to be exactly who he is. The story dictates that she doesn't get a lot of screen time which made me think that I would love to see a second movie that focuses on her life. Can someone make that movie, please?! Outside of her performance, both of the young men who play Arjie, Arush Nand and Brandon Ingram, are very good and give very insightful performances that really help to solidify the production.

The Verdict:
Funny Boy is a beautifully told drama and an interesting exploration of culture, politics, and society in the context of the impact they have on a young man exploring his sexuality.

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