What is the movie about? :: Helen (Anna Ben), a BSc Nursing graduate from Cochin hopes to work and settle in Canada some day. As she attends her English classes during the day, she also works at a fast-food restaurant, Chicken Hub, at Grand Centre Mall. Her father Paul (Lal) is an LIC agent, who doesn’t have much of earnings, and their home itself might be taken over by the bank some day. Even though Paul worked in the Middle East for most of his youth, most of their money was spent for the medical treatment of late Mrs. Paul. Helen hopes to solve all problems by going to Canada and work as a nurse. Until then, she is living a busy life, balancing studies and work. At the same time, he is in love with Azhar (Noble Babu Thomas), a local boy whom she treated when she was working at hospital. She keeps the relationship a secret from most of the people including her father.
So, what happens with the events to follow? :: One night, as she lands in the police station, as Azhar who was driving was drunk, Paul comes to know about her daughter’s relationship with the person. SI Ratheesh Kumar (Aju Varghese) of the nearby police station is not someone who is fond of such relationships. The very next day, Azhar has to leave for Chennai to join a new job, and Helen is not ready to talk to him due to the previous night’s incident. Paul is also not talking to her due to the same problem. On the same day, she works longer than usual time, but ends up in the cold storage vault of the shop after the manager Jayashankar (Rony David) locks Chicken Hub. As she had checked out earlier from the shop, everyone thinks that she is no longer there, but she is caught in there at below zero degree celcius with no mobile phone and no way to contact anyone. Now, its all about survival.
The defence of Helen :: Choosing to be among the best movies of the year along with Kumbalangi Nights, Finals, Unda, Virus and Uyare, Helen is one movie that you will love from the beginning to the end. The thrilling moments are created smartly, and the emotional scenes are right up there with the grand impact. The two hour movie never feels long, and we are there to love each and every moment of it. Debutante director Mathukutty Xavier makes sure that everything is impressive about this movie. This fine package also has some nice foreshadowing to go with it – even though the idea was already given in the trailer, in the beginning of the movie, we see an ant falling into an ice cube tray, and getting frozen in water, a situation symbolic of what is to happen to the titular character, as well as a mouse which also gets trapped inside the cold storage.
Positives and negatives :: It can be safely said that nobody has come up with a negative opinion on the movie, and there is nothing in there to inspire one. We see the thrills and the emotions, but what we take home is the feel-good factor, the idea of a beautiful smile for a stranger that we take home. We have watched Hollywood survival thrillers like The Shallows with one lady caught in the sea hunted by a shark and Bollywood survival thrillers like Trapped with one man caught in a partially completed flat with no water, food, electricity or means for communication. The truth that this movie could stand tall at the same level is something that all of us can be proud of. Driven by multiple performances other than focusing only on one person who is in peril, this one makes things even better – the movie is also the most realistic among the flicks of the same type.
The performers of the soul :: Anna Ben, in her second movie after Kumbalangi Nights, come up with a performance that can’t be easily matched by anyone. She shines as the lovable girl next door, father’s sweet child, responsible adult as well as the determined survivor who refuses to give up, despite even the mouse who was with her in the cold storage room deciding not to fight anymore. The way in which she adapts to each and every moment, will have our attention. She is very much believable as the girl who is trying to survive, and the terror of the situation is reflected on her face as her expressions catch our attention. From Babymol of Kumbalangi Nights to Helen, her work has been worth more appreciation than what most of the newcomers gain with many movies, and this seems to be a case of perfect choice of scripts.
Further performers of the soul :: Lal is perfectly suited for the role of the old-fashioned, loving father, the kind of character which seems to suit him more and more every time – remember Njanundukalude Naattil Oru Idavela. Aju Varghese plays a negative character here, and his police officer might be the beginning of more of similar dark shaded characters to come. He was into full comedy in Adhyarathri, Ittymaani: Made in China and Love Action Drama, and all of a sudden, we seem doing a wonderful job in a different role. Noble Babu Thomas who wrote the script also plays the male lead, and leaves a fine mark. He can move into more roles quick enough. Rony David has a role which has him doing very nicely. Vineeth Sreenivasan who is producing a movie a long time after Aanandam can be seen in a cameo which is a nice one.
How it finishes :: Helen is a well-made survival thriller, maybe the best of its kind not just in Malayalam, but also in any Indian language. With limited resources, the movie provides a fine experience, an emotional and thrilling ride, with a strong feel-good factor. Christopher Marlowe in Doctor Faustus called Helen of Troy from Illiad as the face that launched a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Ilium. Helen of Sparta and later Troy, was someone who started a war with her newfound choice, and here, Helen is someone who would wage a war against a frozen world, not causing one between a city on the northwest coast of Turkey and the allied Greek states. Helen of Troy was someone who did the unthinkable with her elopement, but here, she chooses not to go with her lover, but becomes the epitome of will-power and not beauty. There is that unparalleled charm in this movie which you shouldn’t miss. Watch a beautiful song from the movie below.
Release date: 15th November 2019
Running time: 117 minutes
Directed by: Mathukutty Xavier
Starring: Anna Ben, Noble Babu Thomas, Lal, Aju Varghese, Rony David, Bonny Mary Mathew, Binu Pappu, Jayaraj, Vineeth Sreenivasan, Kookal Raghavan, Lakshmi Marikar, Lali Marikar
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