Nizhal Malayalam Movie Review

Feature Film | U
Despite the excellent performances as well as the gripping narration of the movie up to a point, Nizhal leaves a lot to be desired as a thriller. It has a preposterous plot, an overwrought climax, and some loose ends. Anyhow, Appu Bhattathiri's knack for world-building and storytelling makes it an engaging thriller.
May 13, 2021 By Sreejith Mullappilly

Nizhal begins with an accident that looks so fatal that it comes as a shock when those involved in it escape with a minor injury. One of them is District Court Magistrate John Baby played by Kunchacko Boban. A minor head injury leaves John with a Batman-like face mask to correct the nasal bridge, plus a condition known as PTSD. John's spells of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder come with unreal visions, like raining when it is bright and sunny. So, it is only natural that a child's murder story piques John's interest. He feels there are parallels between his accident and the child's case.

The story of Izin Hash's character Nitin is too intense for a kindergarten student. At first, John, the child's mother and his counselor take it for a kid's wild imagination. But they realize there is something wrong when they find out the facts about the story. So, John Baby breaks all protocols to investigate the matter and find out what ails the kid. That is surprising in a cinematic sense, but you can make sense of it as Baby is too casual for a District Court Magistrate. He listens to the court proceedings with the same casual interest that a layperson would show in a football match that is not going anywhere.

What Baby unearths during his investigation is too good to be true, though. Even if you apply suspension of disbelief, it is so hard to buy into what the movie is talking about. Anyhow, director Appu Bhattathiri has a knack for world-building and storytelling. He plays his cards right and keeps us on the edge of our seats for a good part of Nizhal. John Baby's distorted visions of rain are mere character embellishments, inspired by Netflix's Stranger Things, and those do not add to the movie's story. Anyhow, Nizhal has a brooding ambience throughout thanks to Deepak Menon's cinematography and Sooraj Kurup's background music.

The performances are also uniformly good throughout. I did not see Kunchacko Boban as a Magistrate, but he is compelling as more of a curious investigator with compassion. Nayanthara is also pretty good at conveying the helplessness of a widow with a strange child. It is not a perfect character, but Nayanthara is so convincing here. I did not like the fact that the makers have used a dubbing artist's voice for Nayanthara's character. That may not be a good way to use our Lady Superstar, but that dubbing artist is good at what she does here. Divya Prabha is excellent as Shalini, the child psychiatrist who helps John with the investigation. Also, watch out for Lal in a terrifying cameo.

Despite the performances as well as the gripping narration of the movie up to a point, Nizhal does not quite work as a thriller. That is because the climax is overwrought, plus there are a few loose ends here. It has a jump scare around the intermission that is used for mere shock value. Anyhow, I found the film deeply unsettling.

Sreejith Mullappilly