Venkatesh prunes dead leaves for Nani.
The Pool (2007)
Written and Directed by Chris Miller
“Don’t sit so close to the screen or you’ll strain your eyes.” Using this just-distant sort of metaphor, The Pool constantly considers how those who dream will be hurt the moment they look too closely at those dreams, and what happens when we give up on those moments. The poor boy wants to swim in a rich man’s pool and decides to work for him until he can find a way. He watches them from afar until he gets hired, and then he looks at them through the front door only to see that they’re having an argument. The “rich” man is sad; his “sexy” daughter is depressed. She reads books about foreign lands that will “screw your head up,” but reading too much will “strain your eyes” too.
She won’t eat samosas, but she will eat cake. We cite “The Gift of the Magi,” minus the irony. Indian boys throw rocks at trees for mangoes and watch American wrestling because the director does not seem to know what Indian youth do for fun.
The characters are baldly reactive to one another; every scene is either deeply plotted or a thinly veiled “theme” moment. There’s an aim to make every three scenes have a key line, one that would define the way we consider the film, but it becomes a deluge of heavy-handed metaphor. When one of the boys forsakes the other, it is without plumbing the depth of the situation, because they are boys, and not smart ones.
This is a film without mixed up morals. It’s got a positive energy, even if it’s simplistic. Shot like the documentaries its director is known for making, it remains nicely subdued, never escalating into furious melodrama or indulgent cinematography. The acting is very naturalistic, and it’s cool to see a film where the actors actually look the ages they’re meant to play without that becoming a reason to forgive the performances. Sentimental and novelistic, I can’t share distaste for The Pool; I just wish its screenplay were less obviously a constructed series of themes.