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"One of the year's most lovable and family friendly films."
"(Boyle is) an artist willing to take the right risks for the right story."
"Stands out as an extraordinary and visual delight."
Millions  

Cast

Damian: Alex Etel INTERVIEW
Anthony: Lewis McGibbon
Ronnie: James Nesbitt
Dorothy: Daisy Donovan
Poor Man: Christopher Fulford
Ambrosio: Kolade Agboke
St. Peter: Alun Armstrong
St. Francis: Enzo Cilenti
St. Nicholas: Harry Kirkham
Mum: Jane Hogarth
Review May 2005

What would you do if you stumbled upon a million dollars, especially if you knew that the dollar was going to be replaced by another form of currency in less than a week? Would you keep the money? Would you spend it? Would you give it away? Such is the dilemma found in "Millions," a story about two young boys from Liverpool, who stumble upon a suitcase full of money, just as England is about to replace the British Pound with the Euro. Although the concept of an unexpected windfall is nothing new, the approach most definitely is. Heartwarming and happy, the exact antithesis of the adult fare that Danny Boyle has gotten us accustomed to with such works as "Trainspotting" and "28 Days Later," "Millions" is a pleasant surprise. It depicts a child's fantasy full of magic, miracles, and saints, while embracing an innocent and enthusiastic view of the world. As one of the year's most lovable and family friendly films, "Millions" is a diamond in the rough.

Following the loss of their mother, 9-year old Anthony and his 7-year old brother Damian, are forced to deal with brand new surroundings. Their father, Ronnie, has recently moved them to a newly built subdivision outside of Liverpool where the boys must adjust to a new neighborhood and a new school and make new friends. The change is not easy for the boys, particularly Damian who becomes the subject of ridicule with his outspoken interest in saints. Missing his mother and the comforts of their old neighborhood, Damian builds a cardboard fort between their new house and a nearby rail station. There, he finds comfort and peace. And there, he is visited by saints, among them Clare of Assissi, the patron saint of television. He asks if she's seen his mother, Saint Maureen, but no such luck. Then one day, an unexpected delivery comes crashing down. A bagful of money falls right out of the sky right into Damian's lap. With no one around to claim it, Damian takes it home, convinced it was a miracle.

Hiding the bag under his bed, Damian tells his older brother Anthony about his discovery and the two are ecstatic. But they vow to keep it a secret from their father. The money is denoted in British pounds, approximately 265,000 worth. And just weeks before England is to convert over to the Euro. But complications arise as the boys have different intentions with the money. While Anthony wishes to invest the money practically in real estate or currency speculation, Damian would prefer to give it all to charity. The only problem is the money is not theirs. It was part of a train robbery that went south. Upon this realization, Anthony tries to tell his brother the truth. But not before Damian drops 10,000 pounds into a charity basket at school, inviting all kinds of suspicion. Not to mention, a visit from one of the train robbers. With little recourse, the boys tell their father about the money and together, they devise a plan to discard of it, one that helps them realize something far greater than the money itself.

A group of heroin addicts, some blood thirsty zombies, and a handful of greedy murderers. These are just some of the characters prevalent in director Danny Boyle's films, films that are riddled with adult laden content, violence and gore, language and drugs. Almost overwhelmingly, they are imbued with a bleak outlook on life. Films like "Trainspotting," "28 Days Later," "Shallow Grave," even "The Beach" - all darkly psychological. Which of course, makes a film like "Millions" all the more curious. And for Boyle, a huge departure from the norm. You see, "Millions" is a family film - no blood, no walking dead, and no apocalyptic future. It's a magical tale about two young boys who stumble upon a bag full of money and must decide what to do with it before the pound is replaced by the Euro. Without question, there is a little greed and graft, but it's all eclipsed by the good nature of the boys. Most importantly, this is fiction and fanciful. And it's further proof of Boyle's talent as an artist, an artist willing to take the right risks for the right story.

Unlike his previous works, "Millions" is a candy colored dream. Making ample use of bright shades like sky blues and emerald greens, the canvas is overwhelmingly upbeat and pleasant. Even the clothing is bright and cheery with lots of orange, yellows, and blues. Much of what you see can be attributed to Anthony Dod Mantle, Boyle's cinematographer from "28 Days Later," who used high definition video in a similar fashion, but in a way that is more open to light. In particular, the good characters always seem to have the right light and those that are not good are cast in shadows. There's also a vibrant undercurrent, with bold sound and editing that heightens the experience. It enlivens the train's vibrations, it accelerates the robbery to show play-by-play precision, and it allows the boys to imagine their new home from chalk lines to final product in a fortified frenzy. Stylistically, this is nothing new for Boyle; however, because of the genre change, it's much more noticeable and much more effective - a perfect complement to the film's whimsical voice.

Saints, miracles, and childhood dreams. All of these things have a place in "Millions" and converge nicely in a multi-layered script by Frank Cottrell Bryce. There is the effect of money on children and adults; a father and his struggle to raise two boys without their mother; the innocence and benevolence of a child; and a mythical element, whereby haloed saints interact, advise, and guide. All of these perspectives, real and surreal, are interwoven, observed and told from a child's point of view. And instead of being preachy or presumptuous, the characters are endowed with just the right intelligence, curiosity, and common sense to keep them out of harm's way. Although many might argue that the film loses its sense of reality, that it's all too perfect or improbable, they would be missing the point. The story is pure fantasy, about goodwill and human nature. And it inspires both adult and children's imaginations in a world where miracles can come true.

Cutting right to the heart of the film's appeal are the performances by the two brothers, portrayed by Lewis McGibbon and Alex Etel. These two are so angelic and so likable, not because of any false pretenses, but because the writing and their performances show intelligence and honesty. While they both have good intentions, they also have different thoughts on what to do with the money. Anthony is more extroverted, practical, and protective. He knows how the money should be spent, uses it to bribe classmates, and even comes up with a bright idea of converting pounds to dollars. Damian, on the other hand, is more introverted, na?ve, and charitable. He sees the money as a miracle and consults his only friends, well known saints, on how to spend it. And he thinks nothing of dropping a thousand pounds in a school charity box. Says Damian, "it's not suspicious, it's unusual." Yet because of their differences, their conflicting goals, and their varying beliefs, a common ground is reached - one that unites a family and transcends anything money can buy.

T.S. Eliot once wrote, "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." It's an appropriate anecdote for Danny Boyle, who breaks away from violent and racy content to tackle children's fantasy. And "Millions" is by far, his most inspired work to date, showing just how far he can go. With vibrant color, ingenious and child-centric writing by Frank Cottrell Boyce, and two adorable performances by McGibbon and Etel, "Millions" stands out as an extraordinary and visual delight. And it just goes to show, that in a world full of hope, goodwill, and inspiration, sainthood is only a miracle away.



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