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Ullozhukku Review: Can Love Survive A Tender Film Starring

The opening scenes of “Ullozhukku” (Under Current), directed by Christo Tomy, unfold swiftly, capturing the rapid unraveling of Anju’s (Parvathy Thiruvothu) life. Transitioning from a hopeful salesgirl at a textile shop to a bride posing for awkward post-wedding photos on a backwater boat, her journey is marked by a sense of inevitability and sorrow. The narrative then shifts to the spacious, old house of her husband, Thomas Kutty (Prasanth Murali), and his devoted mother, Leelamma (Urvashi), in Kuttanad. Here, time seems to stand still, much like a boat engine halting at the dock.

Christo Tomy skillfully emphasizes the passage of time, with the film excelling during moments of silent anticipation and halting conversations that only hint at deeper meanings. The house, situated by a backwater lake prone to flooding, adds a living, almost oppressive presence, beautifully captured by cinematographer Shehnad Jalal. The drama primarily unfolds within its walls, amidst the quiet confines of bedrooms and a dimly lit kitchen. The isolated island setting, surrounded by monsoon-fed water bodies, deepens the characters’ grief and crisis with an air of melancholy and foreboding.

Shortly after the wedding, Thomas Kutty becomes gravely ill, forcing Anju into the role of caregiver. Despite Leelamma’s loving kindness, she remains unaware of Anju’s growing unhappiness. The linear narrative follows Anju’s marital life, leading to her rekindling a relationship with her former lover, Rajeev (Arjun Radhakrishnan, voiced by Roshan Mathew). This relationship triggers a storm that culminates on the day of Thomas Kutty’s death, with his funeral delayed by torrential rain.

“Ullozhukku” is Christo Tomy’s third fiction film, following his award-winning shorts “Kanyaka” (2015) and “Kamuki” (2016). Themes of caregiving, desire, and unplanned pregnancy from his earlier works reappear in this feature. His films share a formal quality where nothing appears out of place, with scenes unfolding with restraint and central characters captured in shallow focus.

The film explores the responses of its two protagonists—Anju, desperate to escape, and Leelamma, grappling with grief—to the surrounding crisis. The funeral and pregnancy incidents, along with the associated men, remain peripheral, while the film focuses on the fragmented interactions between the women. Initially, Leelamma assumes Anju’s unborn baby is Thomas Kutty’s, bringing her brief joy. However, Anju eventually confesses her desire for freedom and implies that another lover exists for her mother-in-law.

“Ullozhukku” dissects the crisis into manageable pieces, finding emotional depth in each segment. Despite their differences, Leelamma and Anju share a profound sense of orphanhood, having been brought into the house through marriages that imposed thankless caregiving roles. This tacit sisterhood prompts Leelamma to defend Anju when her own daughter accuses her of betrayal. In a rare crowded scene, Leelamma and Anju share a moment of heavy, silent solidarity.

The film largely excludes the extended community, creating an intimate, almost monotonous narrative that occasionally loses its natural rhythm. The final hour may seem predictable to those familiar with recent Malayalam cinema trends, but it builds to a powerful, emotionally resonant conclusion.

At the heart of “Ullozhukku” is Urvashi’s remarkable performance as a grieving mother. Her portrayal is intricate and deeply personal, capturing the essence of motherhood with subtlety and quiet rage. Parvathy Thiruvothu is also competent, though some flaws in her voice acting are noticeable. Urvashi’s nuanced performance, with its meaningful pauses and gestures, is a masterclass in acting.

Predicting the box office performance of “Ullozhukku” is challenging, as it diverges from mainstream, high-energy films. However, its strengths may resonate with any viewer. In the end, Anju’s choice of a subdued, inner freedom over a more apparent and vibrant one underscores the film’s celebration of tenderness and empathy, offering a deeply rewarding experience.

thelatereview.com

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