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Movie review: 'With You, Without You'

'With You, Without You'
A; Drama

Director: Prasanna Vithanage
Cast: Anjali Patil, Shyam Fernando
Rating: 

Heartbreaking and beautifully tragic, Sri Lankan filmmaker Prasanna Vithanage’s With You Without You is evidence of a cinematic intelligence and the choice of form over script. While we might expect that Vithanage, already an acclaimed filmmaker in his come country, to make a good film, this is a film that stands out in the sad and depressing gamut of desi films.

Movie review: With You Or Without You
A still from 'With You, Without You'

Anjali Patil in her breakthrough role stars as Selvi, a young rural girl who gets married to a pawn shop owner, Sarathsiri (played by a somber Shyam Fernando). Right from the first frame of the film, we’re convinced that this is a film about doomed love. So when the two characters fall in love, we know what to expect in the end. And yet the film is an interesting watch because of the way Vithanage handles the material.

Atmosphere is the key here, as is the sensitive, subdued acting and direction. The reason for the big crack in the marriage between the two is devastating beyond belief, but Vithanage chooses subtlety to delve into the characters and tell his story. Again, anyone familiar with LTTE and Lankan political skirmishes can guess the conflict between the two characters, and the same conflict has been used before in cinema. With You Without You, however transcends the clichés because it does not rest on simple solutions and easy answers. The strength of the film rests on the fact that its themes are relevant no matter which country or time the characters are from.

Patil, a newcomer, portrays the paradoxes of her character skillfully and it is great to experience her grasp of such sensitive material. The turmoil of being married to someone whom you can’t help but hate is a difficult emotion to render, and both Patil and Fernando pull it off. Both characters, to some degree, are creatures of folly, who are liable to self-loathing. Director Vithanage resists the temptation to pump tacky melodramatic emotional uplift into the film’s austere atmosphere. In the end, you have to deal with the fact that sometimes letting go is the only solution for a complicated relationship — things don’t get easier or better defined. With You Without You is a lacerating movie to remind you of the same. It’s a tough movie to watch, but it sure is impossible to forget.

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