C U Soon movie review: Fahadh Faasil & Friends snatch innovation from the jaws of the lockdown for a clever thriller

C U Soon is a remarkably pacy entertainer and a perfect antidote to the immobility that the pandemic has imposed on us.

Anna MM Vetticad September 01, 2020 09:23:17 IST

3.5/5

Okay, so now I know what a dating app looks like. (*inserts laughing emoji)

That’s the platform on which UAE resident Anumol Sebastian (Darshana Rajendran) meets silly Jimmy Kurian one fine day. By his own admission, Jimmy (Roshan Mathew) has a boring job – he works for a banking corporation in the Middle Eastern desert state. We soon learn that he is flighty enough to seek a permanent relationship within days of encountering this young woman he barely knows. (*inserts eye roll)

His mother (Maala Parvathi), with the benefit of maturity that life has not yet bestowed on him, ropes in his older cousin Kevin Thomas (Fahadh Faasil) to snoop on this stranger her son says he loves. Kevin is a tech wiz who is not above hacking. These four people – seen entirely on their computer and smartphone screens in Mahesh Narayanan’s C U Soon – set the ball rolling for what turns out to be a clever, astonishingly gripping entertainer.

The text on screen at the start of the film states that C U Soon was shot adhering to all the COVID-related safety protocols in force in Kerala during the lockdown. It was inevitable that smart filmmakers across the world would find ways to shoot full-fledged features while the coronavirus pandemic keeps humankind confined mostly to our homes. That in India this filmmaker has emerged from Mollywood is expected, since the past decade has marked a return to a golden era of experimentation in Malayalam cinema.

Narayanan had a track record of excellence in editing before he debuted as a director with 2017’s brilliant Take Off starring Parvathy. It is unsurprising that for a film as cutting-edge as this one – with the story rolling out wholly through the characters’ text exchanges, video conversations and voice messages – he found a partner in Fahadh. The star, who had a solid supporting role in Take Off, has been at the forefront of thematic innovation in Malayalam cinema, and is just the right fit for the technological frontier Indian cinema crosses with C U Soon. As it happens, this film is produced by his company, Fahadh Faasil and Friends.

Despite the restrictive format, Narayanan’s astute writing, sure-footed direction and brisk editing combined with his cast’s comfort before the camera make C U Soon a remarkably pacy thriller and a perfect antidote to the immobility that the pandemic has imposed on us.

C U Soon movie review Fahadh Faasil  Friends snatch innovation from the jaws of the lockdown for a clever thriller

A poster of C U Soon, currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

The desktop genre a.ka. the computer screen genre has been explored by select filmmakers for a while since the advent of the Internet era – C U Soon is special because it is born of the compulsions of the ongoing real-life health emergency. It takes exceptional minds to match a subject to a format that is in sync with the limitations on actor movement at this time. For this alone, Team C U Soon deserves to take a bow. The film is much more than an inventive idea though – it is, to put it simply, great storytelling.

The characters are written with multiple shades that you would not guess were possible in a film constrained by space with a crisp running time of 98 minutes and twists unfolding at such an accelerated speed. Yet, after a few minutes, what feels like a constraint becomes an asset, the edge that forces the viewer to stare hard at the screen for fear of missing out even the tiniest hint of what is to come – can a thriller maker ask for anything more?

Since C U Soon takes the progression of its character graphs seriously, it would have meant something if it had shown Kevin either suffering consequences or expressing contrition for briefly roughing up a woman in the film. True, such men in reality rarely come to justice, but because intimate-partner violence has long been normalised by Malayalam cinema (Aadya Rathri and Ayyappanum Koshiyum being shocking recent examples), it would have been a change to see a point being made about this sort of behaviour.   

Fahadh’s finessed performance as the seemingly-detached-but-not-quite-so Kevin is an extension of a body of work that has earned him recognition as one of India’s finest actors. He is so good here, that I am forgiving him for his inexplicable long-distance use of eye drops – you will know what I mean when you see the film. (*inserts wink emoji here)

Darshana is lovely as C U Soon’s enigmatic Anumol. Her filmography is dominated by well-done supporting parts (Mayaanadhi, Virus), but C U Soon is an ad for her ability to carry off a lead role with strength and conviction. Roshan’s prowess and charm come through in the way he makes Jimmy impossible to dislike even when he is irritatingly superficial or needy. Maala Parvathi as Jimmy’s Mum and Saiju Kurup as a friend are memorable in smaller roles.

Their performances are bolstered by Kunal Rajan’s precise sound design, Gopi Sundar’s atmospheric background score and some nifty camerawork (Sabin Uralikandy is credited for cinematography and Narayanan for virtual cinematography).

Be warned though: C U Soon is not to be watched lazily. There are multiple windows open on screen throughout and the activity is constant. For instance, a character might be on a video call with one person while typing messages to another and folders lie scattered in the background – this means the viewer’s senses must be on red alert every moment. I confess I got briefly confused at a couple of points, but hey, that’s how life is on the worldwide web where attention spans are short and multi-tasking is the norm. As I write this, I have six windows open on my laptop and I am switching between three, so the film is nothing if not realistic. Besides, the plotline is so arresting and the storytelling so smooth, that the attention being demanded is not hard to give at all. (*inserts grinning face with sweat emoji)

C U Soon is not just a film, it’s an exciting cinematic adventure. (*inserts dancing emoji)

CU Soon is streaming on Amazon Prime Video India.

Rating: ***1/2

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