Just be glad that I talked about Tampopo for Thanksgiving week and not this movie.
Free on Amazon Prime. Approximately 115 minutes.
Dev Shamser is a bigshot lawyer from Kathmandu who has made international headlines for winning some case. Not all is good, though. His wife, Prerana, finds out from her doctor that it is extremely for her to bear children in Nepal. Though doctors in Thailand might be able to help, she hears about a temple that might grant wishes.
Somewhere in the hills is a poor village where Sanatan and his wife are raising 2-year-old Kabin. They had previously earned a living by using their house as a kind of hostel, but war had put a stop to that. Now that there is a ceasefire, maybe visitors will return. Kabin’s mother believes that he is getting sick, but his father doesn’t believe so. Her brother tells them about a White man setting up a free clinic in a nearby town, so they take Kabin to see him. The line, however, was already long by the time that they got there and she does not believe that the doctor looked at Kabin long enough before giving them treatment. But, whatever; mother, father, and son get their picture taken and then they all go back home.
That night, Dev and Perana arrives at their house. Apparently, they got really really really lost on the way to the temple, so they ask to stay the night before they make the five-hour trek to the temple. The next morning, Perana sees Kabin chasing chickens in the grass. She decides that she wants to adopt him, and demands her sleepy husband to negotiate a deal so that they can take home the boy that day. Granted, that seems legally dubious, but she reminds him that he is no stranger to shady activities. Of course, Kabin’s parents are reluctant, but Dev eventually wears them down with promises of payment and the promise that Kabin will thank them for giving him the opportunity for a better life.
Of course, Sanatan and his wife are immediately remorseful and spend the next two months trying to get in contact with Dev and Prerana. Sanatan frequently presses the irritated and unsympathetic worker at the post office. Sanatan starts drinking and eventually gets a reputation for being a drunk as well as the man who sold his son. Three years pass. As his wife becomes alienated from him and her brother becomes less able to help, Sanatan’s mindset gets gloomier and gloomier. So, when they finally get another visitor…some White drug addict…he…uh…kills the guy and hides the body in the forest.
I guess that killing that guy gave him the motivation to do what he wants, so he treks over to the bus station to go to Kathmandu and bring back Kabin. He does manage to Dev and Prerana, but they inform him that Kabin got pneumonia almost immediately after arriving and died. He is infuriated and attacks them, but security gets a hold of him and takes him away. He returns home defeated, not knowing that they had lied to him. Kabin is not only alive, but renamed as Kevin, and will eventually grow into a troubled young man.
Director Anil Thapa, dedicated this film to his son, which…I mean okay. I am not sure what he thinks of his son, but I would hope that Thapa the younger is both happier and a better man than the son in this film. It is never spelled out why Kevin becomes the way he is, but he appears to receive traits from both his biological parents and step-parents. Outwardly, he seems like a gentle soul, like his birthmother. However, he has this sense of entitlement that requires his desires be met, like his stepmother. He has the will and the means to go beyond the law to make things happen like his stepfather. He turns to an addictive substance to temper or exacerbate a deeply entrenched sense of resentment like his father does. The movie never attempts to say whether nature or nurture was responsible for how Kevin turned out, nor how much personal responsibility he should accept. It does not even say whether his birth family would have been okay had he stayed as Kabin instead of becoming Kevin.
Sidenote: it would have been nice if his birthmother had a name stated in the film, if only so that it would have been easier for me to refer to her. Is it a cultural thing for no one to refer to her by name? I don’t know.
There is text at the beginning basically saying that it is pointless to try to figure out where things could have been fixed, but just to see that things had happened. The past was inevitable. This movie may be a little rough in terms of narrative and character motivation. It employs shortcuts and shorthands, so if you are stuck wondering why a character did a certain thing, then you will probably be knocked off the ride. Perhaps a movie that covers so much time could have benefited from being longer, but I thought that it worked fine.
I suppose that, whenever the narrative seems to escalate suddenly, that you will just have to accept that the things that had been boiling under the surface were really really bad. It is a movie centered on emotional extremes, and how they can lead people not-so-smart paths. And how those not-so-smart paths can get dark.
We don’t see exactly how the three years chipped away at Sanatan’s feelings of self-loathing and emasculation, but we know that it gets really really bad. Likewise, the darkness within Kevin may seem a little sudden but it was always there. I am not sure if there is a Nepalese equivalent for the “nice guy” archetype, and Kevin does not quite fit the criteria, but that is what sprang to my mind as the movie progressed. He presents himself as just a hopeless romantic, but he is revealed pretty early to be just rash and thoughtless, even before the dangerous parts of his personality start creeping in.
This is an…imperfect movie to be sure, but I found it to be both highly engaging and interesting. Just…again, maybe not the best for a family get together, regardless of the director’s dedication.
WTF ASIA 33: Lady Vengeance (South Korea: 2005, Approx. 115 minutes)
WTF ASIA 34: In Love We Trust (China: 2008, Approx. 116 minutes).
Free on Amazon Prime.