When Danny Boyle wasn’t making Shallow Grave (1994) and Trainspotting (1996) and before he went on to the genius that was Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and the direction of the audacious opening ceremony for the London Olympics in 2012, there was Millions (2004).
It’s pretty hard to come out straight and say I disliked it, because there were many elements that made it a quite charming, appealing and very, well, English.
Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, who not only wrote some of the aforementioned Olympics ceremony stuff but also penned the cult hit 24 Hour Party People (2002) and starring James Nesbitt , Daisy Donovan and featuring a cameo from British light entertainment legend Leslie Phillips, it seems to have the pedigree to make a cracker of a movie but I’m sad to report that, although the components sat well together, it was very much more like a damp squib. A shame, as Boyle doesn’t seem to have stepped very far over line of being a talented and versatile director.
Damian (cheekily played by Alex Etel) is a boy who’s not only just lost his mother but now has to face the prospect of moving house too. Retreating into his semi-fantasy world, he builds a fort out of the cardboard moving crates, as young boys are wont to do. One day, as he is sitting in his fort, which is situated not too far from a railway line, a bag comes crashing in through his reveries, breaking some of his handiwork. As any young boy would, he opens it to see what is in there (as an adult, I’d think it was a severed head and leave it well alone). Happily, it contains large bundles of notes of various denominations. Of course, this apparent manna from heaven doesn’t necessarily bring the good luck and fortune many people suppose it will.
This isn’t what bothers me about it, though. The story itself only has one major flaw, that being that in one week the UK will convert to the euro and pounds will be useless. In reality, of course, there would be a long changeover period where both would be valid. It’s not even this that bothers me. It seems that the film’s propensity to drop into a fantasy world is used as a plot device too often. At first, I though it might be some kind of deus ex machina, there to sort out some troublesome moral dilemmas but no. It appears to me that Damian’s regular chats with saints from his favourite children’s book and the resolution of the situation (I can’t tell you too much without spoilers) appear to be story about a journey back to God, and in particular, Catholicism.
By all means have a God or a religion of yours or your parents’ choosing but please don’t use your personal choice of spiritual belief to prop up what is intrinsically a quite thin plot.
Not entirely unwatchable, but almost.