11 September, 2012

RIFF: "Lessons in Forgetting" (*1/2)

Maya Tideman and Uttara Baokar star in "Lessons in Forgetting"

"Lessons in Forgetting" was the first feature I was able to see upon arriving in Rome. The Indian production's inclusion into the festival should be noted more as evidence to RIFF's international nature and less for the film's quality. Author Anita Nair adapted the screenplay from her own book and grabs your attention pretty quickly. Unfortunately, a messy structure and shallow performances keep "Lessons in Forgetting" from feeling like anything more than an 80's made-for-television film.

Not all of the acting in Unni Vijayan's film is amiss. Adil Hussain, Maya Tideman and Uttara Baokar bring enough to the table in some of the central roles. However, virtually every supporting role seems to have been left in the hands of a cast void of persuasion.

A theme of hit-and-miss can be found throughout most of the film's facets. A lovely, artful opening title sequence beckons for attention, but goes on far too long. Rich Indian wind instruments fill the air in a couple scenes, only to be replaced by a dinky music-box score for the bulk of the film.  Entirely too affected by western commercial aesthetics, any significant texture was removed in the attempt to give the film a Hollywood luster.

By the time some decent suspense is built, the mystery investigation has played out too disjointedly. Conviction is forced into a corner by far too much subplot, making it feel as if you have just tuned in when you've already been watching for well over an hour. When we finally have some answers, there is no satisfaction to be found. The heartbreaking 'resolution' is partially responsible for this; but even a happier ending would be of no use, after being left out in the cold for so long.

An interesting premise is left stranded by a mostly careless cast and a muddled inquiry into the reasons why the audience is supposed to care.

1.5 out of 5 stars.

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