Koimoi Recommends Helen: Ever heard of survival drama which is politically charged, and the makers do not shy away in making the subtle commentary? Well, we have one for you. Anna Ben’s Helen is a Malayalam survival drama that left me baffled. Plus the last frame that read the film is based on true events has traumatised me.
Director: Mathukutty Xavier
Available On: Amazon Prime Video
Language: Malayalam (with subtitles)
On the surface level, Helen is a film in which the lead character gets stranded in an uncalled situation, and no one is aware of where she is trapped. The quest that is laid to find her and how she suffers to survive, make the film.
But starring Anna Ben, Lal, Noble Babu Thomas and Aju Varghese, Helen has layers to it. (I may give out some spoilers on the way, but I promise to not ruin your movie-watching experience).
What drives Helen, is the lead character’s life choices. We meet Helen played by the power performer Anna. A girl who is independent, wishes to fly abroad, a girl who comes home late from work, a Christian girl who is dating a Muslim guy. It is all of this that lead to what happens.
Writers Alfred Kurian Joseph, Noble Babu Thomas and Mathukutty Xavier, cleverly introduce us to Helen from the perspective of those who surround her. So when she disappears (and I won’t tell you how and where) you know why a certain character thinks of her a certain way. Be it the neighbouring grandmother who’s loving gaze suddenly goes disappointing when she realises Helen has a boyfriend or the police officer who judges her just because she is a Christian girl out there at night with a drunk Muslim chap.
It isn’t the guy who is asked to prove the character. But instead, Helen’s father is subjected to shame and questioned about his upbringing. All of this in Mathukutty’s directorial debut makes the underlined plot for it. This is just what happens in the first half, I am not even discussing the second. Imagine, in a film so crisp with just 1 hour 57 minutes runtime, the first half has this much to speak. The second half is the outcome of everything you read above, and I won’t spoil it for you.
Talking about survival. Anna Ben looks like she was put in the situation for real. For her initial phase of career, this is a gem of a performance. Unlike other survival dramas that have women in the centre, Helen does not rely on the men to rescue her. Rather we see her doing unimaginable and well, mind shattering things to save herself.
While I loved Anna in Kumbalangi Nights (which is also my favourite Malayalam film), this performance is a treat. Lal as Anna’s father Paul wins the show with his flawed innocence. He plays a father with nothing in hand, but the zest to save his daughter with conviction. Watching Aju Varghese do a negative role was a revelation. Cinematography by Anend C Chandran, gets creative in the survival part. His close-ups on what the situation is doing to Helen will make you close your eyes at least once with fear.
Not that Helen wins in all departments. Yes, there are a few portions introduced to up the drama. Be it a kid who in the very beginning peeks in (you will see). Or an accident by the end that seems unnecessary. Also, I wasn’t much impressed by the BGM. But at the core, Helen is a film that we deserve.
Watch Helen, see how an unconventional survival drama is made. Watch it to see how Malayalam cinema is churning out film after film that gives something unique. We recommend you, Helen, completely. (Note: Strictly not for faint-hearted).
Koimoi Recommends Helen: Star Rating: 3.5/5 Stars (Three And A Half Star)