Kaanekkaane Malayalam Movie Review
Long pauses, silences and internalization of emotions play big roles in Manu Ashokan's new film Kaanekkaane. At the heart of the movie's plot is Tehsildar Paul Mathai played by Suraj Venjaramoodu. I cannot reveal the specifics of the story because the beauty of the movie is in watching the careful unraveling of its plot by the makers. So, I am also going to proceed carefully here. Paul deals with the loss of someone close, and Tovino Thomas's Allen is also coming to terms with the situation.
At first glance, Allen seems to be living a peaceful life with his wife Sneha (Aishwarya Lekshmi) and son Kuttu (Master Alok Krishna). He has a bit of a drinking issue that affects his work life. As they are expecting a child, Sneha realizes that Allen's drinking habit does not bode well for the family. When Paul enters their life with a nagging question on Allen's past, it starts to trigger cracks in the semblance of a perfect family.
I used the word trigger here because the cracks have been there all along. Allen seems Aloof, whereas Sneha starts wondering whether she is starting to drift away from him. We do not see the usual husband-wife fights here, but something keeps them emotionally apart. I will leave you to discover what that something is.
As I said, the beauty of the film is in the unraveling of its plot. Take the use of flashbacks, for instance. The makers use flashbacks to shift back and forth between two timelines in a way that does not affect the flow of the overall narration. The flashbacks are juxtaposed with the present events to give us a sense of where the characters are in relation to where they once were. Flashbacks never add up to exposition here. Instead, the use of flashbacks allows director Manu Ashokan and writer duo Bobby and Sanjay to establish the layered emotional beats of the film beautifully. It is excellent storytelling.
Tovino Thomas and Suraj Venjaramoodu play characters with conflicting and suppressed emotions. The movie does not judge their characters but rather observes them from a distance. Aishwarya Lekshmi also has a very important character but not so important that the movie is about her. In the hands of any other actor, Sneha might have become a little stereotypical but Aishwarya handles the subtleties of her character deftly enough to keep it from being sappy or sophomoric.
Tovino and Suraj play their roles with poise and exquisiteness. Tovino seems so sure-footed in playing a likeable and vulnerable guy who could also be a little unpredictable. On the other hand, Suraj puts in a controlled performance that never quite allows you to easily figure his character out. As with Allen, you feel him but you could not quite reach out to him, which is appropriate for this kind of film. The performance is so good that it makes you want to occupy a space with him, literally in his head.
It is the performances of the three characters that allow Manu Ashokan to tell a layered story without explanatory dialogues. Nothing is easily explained away here. And, even when the makers use a slightly convenient route to end the film, it does not get contrived thanks to the focus on characterization and the performances. The climax is not spectacular but is richly satisfying.
There are also beautiful songs in the film, including the little gem that is Palnilavin Poykayil. All in all, Kaanekkaane is no tear-jerker but a film that packs an emotional wallop. So, keep a handkerchief handy for you might leave it with tears rolling over your cheeks, like me.