Millions

****1/2

Reviewed by: Nick Jones

Millions
"A mini masterpiece."

Frank Cottrell Boyce and Danny Boyle making a film together? You can hear the movie execs rubbing their hands at the prospect of such a collaboration. All they have to do is repackage their most recent work and slap a modified name on it.

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you 28 Day Party People!

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Thankfully such pressures do not easily sway some filmmakers. Boyle and Cottrell Boyce follow their hearts and, with Millions, have delivered a mini masterpiece, which is unlike anything they have done before and yet feels so right when you're watching it.

Eight-year-old Damian (Alex Etel) and his older brother Anthony (Lewis McGibbon) are relocating to a newly built estate with their dad, in an attempt to move on with their lives, following the death of their mother. Anthony appears to be dealing with the loss well, but Damian is a more thoughtful boy. He also happens to be obsessed with patron saints, knowing every historical detail about them, a characteristic that makes him seem odd to the kids at his new school. What they don't realise is that these saints actually visit Damian and offer him advice about his life and how to be good.

Whilst Anthony plays PS2 in his bedroom, Damian builds a cardboard den by the railway track. One day a huge bag of money lands next to him, seemingly fallen from the sky. When Anthony finds out, he plans on buying new consoles, a bike and even investing in properties. Damian, believing the money to be a gift from God, has different plans, which are fuelled by the saintly advice of his spiritual contacts.

To reveal more would detract from Millions' magic. Just make a leap of faith and GO SEE IT!

With 28 Days Later, Boyle breathed new life into zombie films. With Millions, he takes the kids movie genre by the arm and gives it a Chinese burn. A patron saint who smokes dope, a sadistic local policeman who gets a buzz from scaring the neighbourhood with crime statistics and Mormons next door who, upon receiving their miraculous gift of money, spend it on enough hi-tech gear to kit out a superstore.

The amount of dosh isn't actually seven figures; it's around £250,000. But Boyle and Cottrell recognise that everything is bigger, brighter and better in the eyes of a child. Trains are edited to appear fast-forwarded, houses are built in seconds and Boyle's use of overhead angles creates exaggerated perceptions of size, like when the kids pile up the money in their bedroom.

The film's rushed pace also represents something else. Within a few weeks, Britain is converting to the Euro, so the money must be spent quickly before it becomes defunct - a clever tweak in the tale, making the importance of money all the more dramatic.

The two young actors are phenomenal. James Nesbitt is charming as the struggling father and Daisy Donovan perfectly suited to the role of "dad's new girlfriend" Dorothy; at first she seems angelic, a charity worker touring schools with her remote controlled bin which entices kids to throw in their coppers for WaterAid - just one of many touches of genius. But that crazed glint in her eye makes you wonder: "Does she have an agenda?"

Such ambiguity and fear of the unknown is taken into a much darker world with the "poor man" (Christopher Fulford). We know he exists, but how many of Damian's encounters with him are real?

Accessible but not conventional, cerebral but not pretentious, holy but never holier than thou, Millions is a gem of a film, which takes big risks and reaps the rewards for its bravery.

Reviewed on: 27 May 2005
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Two brothers on a housing estate experience a financial miracle.
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