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Millions

Reviewed By Elaine Perrone
Posted 03/17/05 21:54:55

"Fanciful 'Millions' is the dog's bollocks!"
5 stars (Awesome)

SCREENED AT SEATTLE'S GUILD 45TH THEATRE ON FEBRUARY 16, 2005. SCREENING INTRODUCED BY DIRECTOR DANNY BOYLE. With a storyline revolving around two small boys who are grieving the death of their mother, one of whom uses his vivid imagination to chat with a bevy of Catholic saints, Millions is quite unlike anything Danny Boyle has done before. Conversely, with a storyline revolving around a gym bag crammed with stolen money -- 229,520 GBP, to be exact -- and a mad scramble to dispose of it in the days before Britain converts to the euro, Millions is vintage Danny Boyle, through and through.

Taking a break from tales of zombies (28 Days Later) and heroin addicts (Trainspotting), Boyle joined forces with screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce (24 Hour Party People, Welcome to Sarajevo) to deliver an enchanting fable about the healing power of faith, imagination, and generosity. Far from being overly sentimental, though, Millions is a lively romp, awash in glorious color and bursting with devilish humor, a fair bit of suspense, and enough junior larceny to give the three roommates in Boyle's own Shallow Grave a run for their money.

After his mother's death, sweet eight-year-old Damien (Alex Etel) copes by carrying on imaginary conversations with the saints he has learned about at his parochial school, asking each one in turn if he or she has met his Mum, "Saint Maureen." His older brother Anthony (Lewis McGibbon) hurts as much as Damien but deals with the loss a bit more practically -- teaching his younger brother that the phrase, "Our mother is dead," used liberally, is guaranteed to reap treats and special favors from friends, neighbors, and the local shopkeepers.

When the satchel of cash drops, literally, on top of his cardboard fort by the railroad tracks, Damien sees it as a sign from God that he is intended to give the money to the poor -- perhaps as an indulgence toward Maureen's sainthood. Seizing the opportunities where he finds them, he starts by herding a group of homeless people on a lunch outing to Pizza Hut, and stuffs a mailbox full of money for the purchase of an assortment of household appliances by a neighboring commune of Latter Day Saints. Budding capitalist Anthony, on the other hand, sees the money for its investment potential, cannily looking for ways to diversify his family's real estate portfolio in the weeks before the pound becomes worthless.

When the boys' father (James Nesbitt) finds out about the money -- after Damien has generously dropped 1000 quid into the collection barrel of a dumbfounded missionary (Daisy Donovan) -- and a bank robber (Christopher Fulford) tracks down the youngsters and comes calling for his loot, the game is afoot.

Explaining the biggest difference between working with adults and working with children, Danny Boyle commented that when youngsters are the focal characters, a director doesn't have the luxury of going back to the well if a casting choice doesn't work out. If he hadn't found exactly the right boys to work with, he would have had to scrap the entire project -- an unthinkable tragedy, in light of the finished product. Luckily for Boyle, and moviegoers, he did find exactly the right boys, both of whom make their acting debuts in Millions. Little Alex Etel is the heart and soul of the film as the sweet-natured, angelic-faced Damien, who regales his teachers and classmates with stories about the gruesome deaths of his favorite martyrs. McGibbon complements Etel perfectly as Damien's materialistic brother Anthony, a natural entrepreneur at the age of ten.

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