U.K. director Danny Boyle turns his talents to an unabashed family film, though fans will detect an echo of his ferocious SHALLOW GRAVE (1994), in which the naked avarice revealed by an illicit windfall consumes three roommates. Screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce's altogether gentler story, however, allows goodness to trump greed when unexpected riches drop into the lap of motherless 7-year-old Damian Cunningham (Alex Etel). Damian's grieving father (James Nesbitt) has just moved Damian and his brother, 9-year-old Anthony (Lewis McGibbon), to a brand-new home in suburban Manchester in hopes of making a fresh start. Each sibling is coping with loss in his own way: Pragmatic Anthony slyly parlays his mom's death into gifts of goodies from sympathetic adults, while the dreamy Damian retreats into baroque stories of the lives of the saints. In fact, they've become as vividly real to him as his neighbors and classmates; in Damian's off-kilter imagination, Saints Clare (Kathryn Pogson), Francis (Enzo Cilenti), Nicholas (Harry Kirkham) and the rest of their blessed company — even St. Peter (Alun Armstrong) himself — are as imperfect, accessible and odd as anyone else. Steeped as he is in thoughts of God and miracles, Damian naturally presumes divine intervention when, shortly before Christmas, a gym bag stuffed with cash crashes into the makeshift clubhouse he's built himself near a high-speed rail line. Anthony swears his younger brother to silence — he's just a kid, but he knows enough to be afraid of the tax man — and tries to figure out how best to spend the loot. And spend they must: England is about to convert to the euro, and in a matter of weeks all that lovely money will be nothing but worthless paper. Anthony looks into investments and Damian tries to give to the poor, but as various incarnations of BREWSTER'S MILLIONS have demonstrated, it isn't as easy to get rid of serious money as the average wage slave thinks. The arrival of a menacing stranger (Christopher Fulford) adds a note of danger and sets in motion the film's satisfying climax. Boyle's flamboyant style is evident in the film's handling of Damian's rich inner life, from the quirky saints with their bobbing halos to his fantasy of being rocketed to Africa in his cardboard clubhouse. But this cheeky fable rests on the slender shoulders of Etel and McGibbon, and the lovely, natural performances Boyle elicits from them are the film's real miracle.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: PG
- Review: U.K. director Danny Boyle turns his talents to an unabashed family film, though fans will detect an echo of his ferocious SHALLOW GRAVE (1994), in which the naked avarice revealed by an illicit windfall consumes three roommates. Screenwriter Frank Cottrell… (more)