Lal Jose's 'Emmanuel' is an intimate and powerful depiction of the tests of survival that mankind is forever subjected to. Surprisingly, it's a recognizable story that is visualized into a sad, and often well observed slice of life by the director this time around, making 'Emmanuel' a heartrending, but never hysterical saga of human predicament.
Emmanuel (Mammootty) finds his tiny world turned upside down, when his employer unable to struggle through a financial crisis, flees the city one fine morning. Left with no job, Emmanuel joins a new gen insurance company, where working under the manager Jeevan Raj (Fahad Fazil), he comes to realize that nothing is what it seems, and that life is far from insured.
Some men are made good, and Emmanuel is one of them; he has this inherent goodness that splashes out in abundance through an ever-so-common smile that flashes across his lips, a nod of his head or blinking of his eye. His hopes perked up, he looks forward to good things happening to him, his family and the people around, even as his tired eyes at times, give in to the frustration that abounds from all around.
It's this positivism that extends all over the film, and the setbacks even though momentary, continue to haunt its characters. But the human will to survive the odds and start over all again is unfathomable, and Emmanuel remains an embodiment of this resolve and determination that refuses to be bogged down. And from those who strive, could God be far away?
The tiny scrap of painting that is stuck under Emmanuel's table is the force that propels him forward in life. Over time, it loses grip and almost threatens to drop down and be swept away, but Emmanuel sticks it up yet, heaves a sigh, and gives life another try. Left exhausted and gasping for breath, he seems an abject vision of a man to whom life has never really been fair.
The family that he holds on to - his wife Annie (Reenu Mathews) and his son Robin (Gauri Shankar) - has learned to take disappointments in its stride as well. Ever hoping that the tides would turn in their favor some day, they hang on to their dear sailor, refusing to leave his side, come wind or heavy rain.
There are indeed some glaring dips into formulaic territory that could perhaps be overlooked under a wider purview. Equally distressing is the unconvincing overnight transformation of a couple of almost black characters into white. While Jeevan develops angelic wings all on a sudden, so does the doctor who turns to charity before you even nod your head.
Mammootty is incredibly good as Emmanuel, though it's never a role that strikes up fresh challenges before him as an actor. Fahad takes up yet another challenge with elan, and delivers the goods without fail. Reenu Mathews and Gauri Shankar are both perfectly cast, while Sunil Sukhada impresses in a significant role.
Afzal Yusuf, is terrific, delving right into the pathos, and coming up with a melancholic musical score that strikes the very right notes. It follows the protagonist relentlessly and captures the bleak textures of his life with flair. Equally commendable is the unfussy cinematography by Pradeep Nair that sees to it that the drama remains agonizingly engrossing throughout.
'Emmanuel' is a film that talks of the trying times that we live in. it's a delicate film with modest intentions, but which nevertheless remains a miniature gem with a distinct shine.