Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems


“Pick me. Pick me!” says the little bugger.

A teacher asks his young students to name people they admire. Little hands go up in the air, eager to name famous footballers – or as we, Americans, refer to as soccer players. When 7-year old Damian Cunningham (Alex Etel) is called upon, he names St. Roch – a saint. “He was worried that he might say something bad,” the kid informs of the saint, “that he said nothing at all for 20 years.”

The teacher is amused. “We could do with a couple like him in this class.”

“I like a lot of virgin martyrs too!” Damian adds. “Like Saint Agatha. She ripped her eyes out so she wouldn’t have to marry this man.” Not surprisingly, the class collectively groans in disgust. Maybe Damian should be more like St. Roch and said nothing at all.

“You should be careful what you talk about,” his 9-year older brother Anthony (Lewis McGibbon) advises. “Try talking about football or something. Keep off the weird stuff.”

Ah, but things gets weirder. The next day, inside his private lair, made out of boxes, in the midst of a conversation with a smoking Claire of Assisi, the patron saint of television, a bag of cash falls from the sky. He immediately gets Anthony – who gasps in disbelief at the found fortune.

“You can see it too then?” asks Damian. “Well, like, you know, sometimes you see things, don’t you, and other people can’t see them.”

“What?”

“Well, you know, sometimes. But this is real though.”

Anthony verifies the money and nods. “This is real.”

That’s the premise of “Millions.” How will these two brothers deal with the windfall, which they keep a secret from their widower dad (James Nesbitt)? Damian, who talks regularly to saints, wants to give it to the poor, while financially savvy Anthony has expenses and investments in mind. While the brothers respect and love each other, they’re stuck with opposing morals. Meanwhile, the viewer (or possibly just me)is smacked in the middle, with the ability to understand and agree with each boy’s reasons. Indeed, it plays out like an inner conflict between dealing with reality and keeping spirituality intact.

Despite the title, “Millions” isn’t necessarily about money. Damian is its focus, its hero, its narrator, its own treasure. Perhaps not since Cole of “The Sixth Sense” have we seen a child character emotionally developed as Damian. Unlike Haley Joel Osment or Dakota Fanning – who seems like young incarnations of old souls – Etel is convincing as a kid in body, heart, and soul. The true hook is to see him effortlessly carry the film with charisma and beguiling innocence. Most of all, he brings out a moving sincerity to the role, as Damian tries hard to understand the world that doesn’t quite understand him. Etel is lucky to be supported by a capable cast. James Nesbitt is affable as the dad and newcomer Lewis McGibbon, as Anthony, contributes significantly to the brothers’ remarkable chemistry. The casting couldn’t be more perfect. With a wondrous and lofty screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce and directed with vigor and spunk by Danny Boyle, “Millions” is rich in imagination, in wonder, in ideas, in whimsy, and in heart. I don’t know how this little piece of heaven could be denied. No need to consult your favorite saint.

Grade: A+

CAST
Alex Etel, Lewis McGibbon, James Nesbitt, Daisy Donovan, Christopher Fulford, Jane Hogarth, Kathryn Pogson, Nasser Memarzia, Harry Kirkham, Enzo Cilenti, Alun Armstrong, Gunnar Winbergh
Screenplay by
Frank Cottrell Boyce
Directed by
Danny Boyle
Rated PG for thematic elements, mild language, some peril, and mild sensuality
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