An extremely charming, philosophically-inflected comedy about an Indian pauper dreaming of a bright future.
Originally completed in 2007 and released in the US in 2008, The Pool, from director Chris Smith, finally plunges into UK cinemas four years later. Why it’s been plucked from the shelf after all this time remains a mystery, though its circuitous release history doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s an utterly charming little film.
You may know co-writer and director Smith for his 1999 documentary, American Movie, about a pair of lovable drop-outs attempting to piece together a no-fi horror movie. The Pool couldn’t be more of a departure; a Hindi-language, Dardenne-like comedy-drama about Venkatesh (Venkatesh Chavan), an illiterate, wayward teen hotel worker who dreams of diving headlong into a swimming pool owned by a rich local family.
A model of lucid, unpretentious and assured character building, Smith’s film examines the hardscrabble existence of life with no financial or family support. He also looks at the psychological strain of developing meaningful aspirations without the correct tools to achieve them. Spied in the branches of a tree gawping at the pool, Venkatesh is invited by the owner of the property to help out in the garden, though it’s not long before Venkatesh is making eyes at the boss’ daughter, Ayesha (Ayesha Mohan).
The naturalistic dialogue sparkles as the script favours amusing discursive conversations and never stoops to having its characters preach to one another. Venkatesh’s tragic backstory and his reasons for wanting to dive into the pool are revealed subtly, while the view of Goa (the film’s location) through the eyes of an American director is both tasteful and evocative, drawing out an exotic beauty while refusing to shy away from the dismal economic conditions.
Things go a little astray during the final half-hour, and it’s not helped by Smith’s baffling decision to fade numerous randomly selected scenes to black. Yet even though The Pool is inching towards its fifth birthday, better late than never we say.
Chris Smith’s film has been rescued from 2007. Uh-oh…
Wow, a bona fide charmer has been salvaged.
Hopefully Smith will make more movies in this laid-back, poetic style.