Directed by Danny Boyle. Starring Alex Etel, Lewis McGibbon, Daisy Donovan, James Nesbitt. (2005, PG, 98 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 25, 2005
Seven-year-old Damian (Etel) lives with his 12-year-old brother Anthony (McGibbon) and father Ronnie (Nesbitt), who, in the wake of his wife’s passing, moves the grieving family to a brand new, prefab housing development in the north of England. It’s the sort of place that’s surrounded by verdant, sprawling fields, cut through by the whip and roar of racing bullet trains. It seems to do the motherless pack a bit of good until, strangely enough, one of those rushing engines discharges a duffel bag full of cash, which pinwheels balletically through the air before coming to rest on Damian’s secret cardboard-box fort. The boy, already imaginative and chatting to the whole panoply of C of E saints on a daily basis (we see them as he does, in the flesh, conversationally offering him tips on how to be a better lad – he, in turn, asks them if they’ve met the new saint on the heavenly block: his mum), believes the cash to be a gift from God, and promptly sets out trying to help people with it. Bringing his more earthly-minded brother into the picture only complicates things with dreams of iPods and PlayStations for all, but Damian’s unspoiled spiritual goodness tends to steamroll even the most malicious of characters (specifically the looming baddie who stole the cash in the first place). There’s a catch, though: There are only days to go before England switches currencies from pounds sterling to the euro, thus rendering that big bag of notes just so much pretty paper. Millions is a sweet, emotionally complex film about faith and charity and how the workaday world tends to snuff out such simple virtues as the years go by and childhood fades. It’s surely not what most people would have expected from Danny Boyle, who rocketed to cinematic infamy with his gruelingly hilarious adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s junkie epic Trainspotting in 1996 and whose last film involved flesh-eating Mancunians and a virus nicknamed "Rage." It is, however, unmistakably Boyle, rife as it is with all manner of CGI-enhanced magical realism and a chewy center of bleakly British optimism. It’s also markedly much like Boyle’s first film, the fine and harrowing Shallow Grave, in that it involves stolen money and the effects such windfalls have on the unprepared and ill-advised. Boyle’s credo seems to be "fortune favors the innocent," but even the impossibly cute, freckle-faced boy wonder Etel has the pensive, dark look of a guilty party, caught with his hand in the cookie jar, much of the time. It’s childhood done just right: part cotton-candy angels, part gurning adult frighteners, and all wide-eyed kidhood bravado.