TIFF 2016: Once Again Review

Masters

Once Again fails to live up to its potential and devolves into melodrama and cliché, without doing honour to the already interesting characters established at the beginning of the film.

Directed by Indian director Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Once Again details the bad decision made by Purushothaman Nair (Dileep) to fake his death in a fiery car crash so that his family could get the life insurance. This decision not only involves him, but an innocent man and his father-in-law. I’m fairly certain this has been a plot of an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode in one way or another.

The problem with this film is the wonderful beginning it has. The family’s relationships are drawn out and it appears that Nair is the most loving and doting father you could hope for – a little desperate after being unemployed for seven years, sure, but striving to look for work all the same, and being kind and polite to everyone along the way. The family scenes made me happy since we’ve reviewed many dysfunctional family films during this year’s Festival. I thought the film was going to be about finding work and providing for one’s family.

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He does find work in Dubai, which is only featured so far as a short montage. Apparently in no time Nair becomes a hardened criminal willing to ignore his wife’s “what the hell are you thinking!?!” moment and proceeds to take the life of an innocent man. This is not the Nair I know, but the Nair that was contrived so that this plot could be created. 

A rule of thumb is to let the characters act organically and naturally, and their behaviour will determine the story’s events. Not the other way around. The rest of the film is formulaic as they come, once again indeed.

Michael McNeely is a deaf-blind film critic and advocate for greater accessibility in our cinemas. Read more about his story here.

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