Love movie review: Malayalam thriller on Netflix is a twisted visual take on domestic violence

Khalid Rahman’s brisk, 91-minute, genre-bending film, now on Netflix is a cerebral Malayalam thriller that will keep you curious about what’s going to happen next.

Pradeep Menon February 23, 2021 12:51:50 IST

3.5/5

The air is still thick with the suspense of Jeetu Joseph’s follow up to Drishyam, so if you’ve not caught it yet, you’re probably missing out. But if you have watched it, and you’re craving something else along those lines - a cerebral Malayalam thriller that will keep you curious about what’s going to happen next - Khalid Rahman’s brisk, 91-minute, genre-bending film, now on Netflix, might just be a good way to go.

The film is, ironically, about the breakdown of a marriage that began with love. And with this simple premise, come two seemingly mundane central characters, in a familiar situation, mouthing innocuous, almost basic dialogue. Deepthi (Rajisha Vijayan) comes home in the middle of the day to her husband Anoop (Shine Tom Chacko); he’s day-drinking, down a peg or two, playing video games on the telly, and the kitchen sink has unwashed plates that have begun to shelter other life forms. Obviously, there is an argument between them.

Yet, the film doesn’t waste too much time in shifting gears, the plot starting to turn one after another. The visual craft in the film begins to play its part, as Love transforms into a psychological game of ‘what!’ and ‘what next?’ Despite being set within one house for almost the entirety of its runtime, Khalid Rahman uses carefully composed extreme close shots, slow motion set pieces, sharp production design and dark humour to make a point or two about toxic relationships. 

Love movie review Malayalam thriller on Netflix is a twisted visual take on domestic violence

A still from Malayalam film Love.

The film’s treatment doesn’t just offer visual relief in its confined setting but is integral for the plot to play out the way it does. Why are we shown a close-up reflection of one man in the eyes of another? Why is one character replaced by another with that sharp cut? Why does that bedroom door have a large smiley on it? These are questions of craft that speak directly to what exactly is happening with the characters. 

Make no mistake, Love is a violent film, the kind that perhaps needs trigger warnings at the outset; and it isn’t merely the few scenes showing graphic domestic violence that I’m talking about. The film is relentless in showing you the cruel ways in which relationships can pan out, relentless with its casual dialogue that plainly reveals dark human impulses (through humour that is grotesque only in retrospect), and relentless in throwing one twist after another, right until the very final scene.

You can always sense there’s something lurking there beneath the surface, much like what the film is really about – the darkest corners of the incredible human mind.While it primarily revolves around Anoop and Deepthi, a motley bunch of characters keep cropping up, saying and doing bizarre things that may not always make sense, but as the plot unfolds, all of those weird moments that confused you earlier begin to reveal their relevance. In fact, while it’s a film that will obviously make the most impact after the first viewing, a second viewing is likely to reveal a lot more about the telltale signs leading to the big pre-climactic twist.

There is, perhaps, a larger conversation to be had about the very idea of making a thoroughly entertaining movie on a sensitive, graphic issue. But it’s not one you can have or even think about while Love is playing out. Every character who comes in brings a new set of ‘thrills’ to the thriller, and to be sure, every one of the actors in the film has done a commendable job – with special props to Gokulan, who plays one of Anoop’s friends. 

His character is the primary humour element in the film. No one else appears to be kidding around. The film is infused with humour only when he enters, and loses its humour the moment he’s out. Still, it leaves you with the feeling that it was among other things, a darkly funny film. That’s the kind of impact Gokulan has in its proceedings. Add to that a minor detail that his character is, perhaps, the deepest of the various shades of grey in the film. Without this friend and the way he has been portrayed, the film could have been dull, despite the twists.

But yes, the raison d’être of the film is those twists. Even the most seasoned connoisseur of thrillers may struggle to predict where the plot is headed. Eventually, though, there is a sense of satisfaction you may feel at the end of the film, because everyone who deserves their comeuppance gets it. Love is, after all, a zero-sum game. 

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