Shyamaprasad's 'English' opens during another autumn in London, and Sarasu (Nadia Moithu), having spent years on this foreign land with her doctor husband (Murali Menon) and two lovely kids, gets ready to celebrate Diwali inside the confines of her home. Sibin (Nivin Pauly) is enchanted by his newlywed best friend's wife Gauri (Remya Nambeesan), while in another corner of the city, Shankaran (Jayasurya), a Kathakali artist who works at a restaurant, keeps writing letters to his lady love back home. Joy (Mukesh), aided by his wife Sally (Sona Nair), looks after his mother who has taken ill, and when told by the doctor that he has to make a decisive decision for her - a life-changing one at that - is devastated.
Displacement essentially remains at the core of the film, and it traces the individual life journeys that each of these men and women embark on, vehemently striving all the while to come to terms with their roots having been severed off. There are the totally lost ones and those who are yet to realize their loss, while a few others seemingly go through a process of denial, perplexed and puzzled at their own identities.
Of the four story lines that run parallel to one another, there are at least two that capture your interest. Leading the pack is Sarasu and her concerns about being away from home, and when she notices that her husband has been slowly, but surely moving away from them, she decides to unearth the truth. Her discovery is far from reassuring, but it makes her a stronger woman for sure.
Joy is perhaps as much a concerned father as he is a concerned son, and as he painfully tends to his ailing mother, he might perhaps be reflecting on his own old age that is imminent. That his only daughter has purposefully chosen to stop speaking Malayalam and has become increasingly indifferent to her parents adds to his distress.
What makes 'English' appealing is the way both these tales conclude. Sarasu running into Sibin in the elevator after having uncovered the greatest reality in her life, tells him that it's tough to make some decisions in life. In this remarkably well written scene, he agrees to her, after a brief pause, thereby lending his underwritten tale a moment of glory as well.
As Joy breaks down under the shower, the much dreaded telephone call from the hospital brings him news. Undoubtedly one of the best moments in the film, it reinstates your faith in life, and prods you to hang on, irrespective of the storm that has been relentlessly raging outside.
The characterization is 'English' disappoints in that the much adored microscopic examination of character that one has got used to in all Shyamaprasad films till date is missing here. It almost seems as if this highly peripheral character study that is attempted in 'English' is deliberate, and for once, the film maker has let his characters walk away from a perennial focus.
This is particularly evident in the other two plot threads, both of which involve a love, one which is never expressed and the other which is severed off all on a sudden. The magic that is apparent elsewhere in the film is seriously missing here, as these story lines are marred with one chestnut popping up after another.
Of the cast, Mukesh and Nadia Moithu come up with terrific performances that easily put the rest of them under the shade. It's almost a rediscovery of the actor in Mukesh, a tremendously capable performer who has been terribly underused till date. Udayan Ambaadi's cinematography captures London in all its autumnal glory, while Rex Vijayan's musical score leaves a mark.
'English' is beautifully played for its most part, and it's deeply touching in its exploration of life and love on an alien land. Undoubtedly several notches above the standard genre fare, the bumpiness in its narrative stops it from evolving into a stately drama of its own kind!