Joji Malayalam Movie Review
My knowledge of William Shakespeare's Macbeth is limited to the fact that it is primarily a cautionary tale on greed. Yet, as just a piece of work, I enjoyed the new Dileesh Pothan film Joji to a great extent.
What makes it so fascinating is Pothan's handling of the script, written by his frequent collaborator Syam Pushkaran, and Fahadh Faasil in the titular role. Fahadh has an amazing ability to enact contrasting emotions in a matter of moments. There are many moments in this film where Joji behaves like an innocent boy who lost his favorite toy as well as a menacing and conflicting person virtually at the same time. Fahadh acts a lot with his eyes, and he makes a complex character look effortless once again.
The story revolves around Joji, the youngest member of a Christian family set somewhere in Kottayam. The plot kicks in when something bad happens to the head of the family, Sunny PN's Kuttappan PK Panachel. Kuttappan may be an old man, but he is well-built and powerful. We know that right from the start of the film where he does pull-ups, a difficult exercise for a man of his age.
Kuttappan's eldest son, Jomon played superbly by Baburaj, is more concerned for his health than the other immediate family members are. The others have their eyes set on the family's property and wealth. To divide it all among the members, it is essential for them to see the end of Kuttappan.
Shammi Thilakan's Felix is not just a Panachel relative, but he is also like an advisor/consigliere in the family. Whatever happens, the family listens to Felix's advice. Fahadh Faasil's Joji is the Macbeth-based figure here, whose main interest lies in how to make money. Unnimaya Prasad is Bincy, the only lady in the family, and the Lady Macbeth-equivalent figure in this movie. She is desperate to be free from this patriarchal setting, so her interest in family politics is secondary to that basic need. Which explains why she turns a blind eye to some questionable and amoral happenings in the family.
Joji Mundakayam plays Jaison Panachel, Bincy's husband and Kuttappan's third son. In one scene, Jaison obediently listens to the old man's wish to have his room air-conditioned. When the family head says the wish, Jaison pays attention to him with an almost bowed head as a sign of how steeped patriarchal values are in the family.
The movie's story may be as old as the Bard, but Pothan and Pushkaran modernize it with a milieu of face masks and quarantines. In one key scene, Bincy tells Joji to wear a face mask. It is a line that sums up the situation of the characters perfectly.
Joji has perfectly cast actors in both small and important roles. Besides Fahadh, Unnimaya Prasad also comes up with a terrific performance here. Unnimaya does not have many lines in the film, but her overall demeanor befits the behavior of an oppressed daughter-in-law in a Christian family. Even Basil Joseph as Father Kevin fits the bill, so to speak.
Justin Varghese's music sets the tone for this often-somber and always-fascinating drama. Shyju Khalid's camera work also plays a big part in setting the atmospherics for this film. The camera often swirls around the trees and hovers over the spacious rubber estate where the film is set, offering us stunning visuals.
If you nitpick, you could say that some plot elements are in conflict with a key character's overall nature, and that the ending seems slightly hurried versus the rest of the film. But those are minor reservations in an otherwise spellbinding Shakespeare adaptation on Amazon Prime.