Before the Rains (Roadside Attractions, PG-13)

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beforetherains.jpgThe opportunity to develop the characters and explore human relationships distorted by colonialism is discarded in favor of a story which is highly predictable and not particularly involving.

 

 

Before the Rains, directed by Santosh Sivan, fails to deliver on the potentially intriguing premise of an interracial romance set in India in 1937, against the backdrop of the Indian independence movement that would set India free from British colonial rule only ten years later. It's beautifully photographed and the actors are excellent within the limitations of their roles, but the story is underdeveloped and the director can't resist the temptation to underline his message, over and over. Colonialism is evil and corrupting, both to the rulers and the ruled. Thank you, I think we've got it now.

British spice trader Henry Moores (Linus Roache) enjoys a princely life in Kerala, with a palatial home, a beautiful wife (Jennifer Ehle) and charming son, and a cadre of loyal Indian servants and workers. Since his wife is often away, Moores doesn't hesitate to enjoy the charms of his beautiful (and married) housekeeper Sajani (Nandita Das), a decision which leads to multiple tragedies. She's not unwilling, due in part to her marriage to a brutal husband (Lal Paul), whose character is sketched in only the broadest of outlines.

Moores has just secured a large bank load for an ambitious road-building project, which he needs to complete before the monsoon rains arrive (hence the title). To carry it out, he needs the assistance of his loyal foreman, T.K. (Rahul Bose), who serves as his liaison to the Indian community. T.K. is a thinly-disguised symbol of the soul of modern India: an Indian with a Western education, he attempts to move between the two worlds without taking sides, and ultimately realizes the futility of that proposition.

Early in the film, Moores presents T.K. with a pistol. Following Chekhov's law, we know that it will be used before the movie's conclusion. And that's the basic problem with Before the Rains: the opportunity to develop the characters and explore human relationships distorted by colonialism is discarded in favor of a story which is highly predictable and not particularly involving. The screenplay by Cathy Rabin is based on a shorter film by Dan Verete (one of three stories in the 2001 film Asphalt Zahov, where the adulterous couple were an Israeli farmhand and a Bedouin housekeeper), and there's just not enough going on to justify a full-length feature. | Sarah Boslaugh

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