Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"Sprinkled with a heady dose of magic realism, this film is lovely."

The tweenies have been missing out a lot lately. Largely abandoned in favour of saccharine pink, sugar-coated films aimed at romantic teenagers, or overtly violent offerings that barely scrape a 12A rating, the cinematic storytellers seem to forget that people between the ages of 10 and 12 want to watch something other than animation. How fortunate, then, that when a film aimed squarely at them comes along - Harry Potter, Spy Kids - they tend to make up in quality what they lack in quantity.

Millions is a case in point. Danny Boyle doesn't seem the most likely director to take on a kid's adventure tale, being a veteran of darker movies, such as Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, but he has a lightness of touch that suits Frank Cottrell Boyce's tale of derring-do perfectly.

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Set a short time in the future, with Britain about to join the euro, Damian (Alex Etel) and Anthony (Lewis McGibbon) are two typical brothers, living uneventful lives except for the fact that their mum has passed away, leaving them and dad (James Nesbitt) to go it alone. They move to a new housing estate and new school where Damian spends his days building a den by the railway line and chatting to a host of imaginery friends, who just happen to be saints, while Anthony aspires to more solid, earthly objects, usually acquired by telling people that "our mum's dead".

One day, as Damian is chewing the fat with fag-smoking patron saint of TV, St Claire (Kathryn Pogson), about whether she's seen his mother up there among the great and the good, a huge bag of money drops from the sky. It is the result of a botched bank raid, but Damian doesn't know this and assumes it is a gift from God. He tells Anthony about the new-found wealth and, with two week's to go before sterling currency becomes obsolete, they set about spending it in their very different ways. Damian wants to use it for "good works," while Anthony thinks they should invest it for the future, putting the two of them on a collision course with each other, their dad - who knows nothing of the "miracle" cash - and the sinister bank robber (Christopher Fulford), who just wants his money back.

Sprinkled with a heady dose of magic realism, this film is lovely. It has a decent storyline that carries a whole raft of strong morals (money can't buy you happiness/love, with great wealth comes great responsibility, to name but a few) that are cleverly packaged and presented in the form of a heartwarming allegory.

Boyle knows how to turn up the tension and Fulford is very sinister indeed. Along with a bit of blood on some of the more creatively disposed of saints, this can be the only reason to merit a 12A certificate. Certainly, compared to many films aimed at youngsters, Millions contains a lot less violence and a much stronger message.

Etel and McGibbon are excellent and believable as brothers who look out for one another and spar together at the same time, while Nesbitt laps up the role of a dad trying to hold his family together in the face of grief. It's great to see Daisy Donovan, who doesn't get nearly enough film roles, playing his eccentric girlfriend.

Millions was originally scheduled for a pre-Christmas release and, with talk of saints and nativity plays, it's a shame it didn't get to see the light during what would have been a timely season. But, no matter. This is a great family adventure, whatever time of the year, which will provide those sick of Star Wars with a less bleak and more intelligent alternative to Sith.

Note: The BBFC consumer advice to establish the 12A rating states - "Contains one scene of drug use". A saint is briefly seen smoking a spliff.

Reviewed on: 27 May 2005
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Two brothers on a housing estate experience a financial miracle.
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Nick Jones ****1/2

Director: Danny Boyle

Writer: Frank Cottrell Boyce

Starring: Alexander Nathan Etel, Lewis Owen McGibbon, James Nesbitt, Daisy Donovan, Christopher Fulford, Pearce Quigley, Alun Armstrong, Enzo Cilenti, Kathryn Pogson, Nasser Memarzia, Leslie Phillips, Harry Kirkham

Year: 2004

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK


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