Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

It's been almost a fortnight since I saw this, but I did say I'd write about it, so...

Slumdog Millionaire. An adaptation of the novel Q&A, in which a boy from the slums of Mumbai ends up enthralling the nation on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?. It's the latest film by director Danny Boyle, who always gets special attention here in Edinburgh, thanks to Shallow Grave and Trainspotting. But this one is a worldwide success.

It shouldn't really work. It's a fable, of course, and a story about destiny, or at least everything falling into place - and so it's driven by a string of staggering coincidences which ought to make it wholly ludicrous. It's a testimony to Boyle's skill and the energy of his direction that he makes it ultimately heartwarming rather than absurd. With a starcrossed-lovers tale like this, you could easily degenerate into cliche, but the film has a strong enough sense of its own identity to escape overfamiliarity and freshen the story up.

Of course, it has the advantage of combining an exotic setting with a framework that's very familiar but still unusual in a film. You'd normally get an obvious stand-in for Millionaire here; but handily enough, the movie rights to the show have become separated from the TV rights, making it possible to use the actual show.

I'm not sure it's quite as good as people are making out. It's a very well told fable, but it's not exactly deep. It works because it feels right, rather than because it's got much to do with the real world. But then, what's wrong with that? It's a modern fairy tale; and on those terms, they don't come much better.