Netflix Update No. 21: “Millions”

October 19, 2009



We watched “Millions,” a British fantasy from 2004 in which a seven-year-old boy finds a small fortune in English pounds and learns a few things about the good and bad potential in money.

Frank Cottrell Boyce adapted his novel for this screenplay and the film is directed, with a lot of whimsy, by Danny Boyle.

The story revolves around a fictional event, the deadline for Britons to either deposit their pounds in the bank or convert them into euros. A very large amount of the obsolete currency is being shipped by rail to a destination where it will be burned. A ring of thieves conspire to steal the money and toss it off the train bag by bag to be recovered by colleagues who are waiting trackside. One of the bags goes bounding into a cardboard “rocket ship” and brings it crashing down onto young Damian Cunningham (Alex Etel), who constructed it out of  cartons and was playing inside.



Damian confides in his older brother Anthony (Lewis McGibbon), and the brothers immediately disagree on how to dispose of the cash before it becomes worthless. Damian, who is obsessed with saints to the point that he regularly meets and converses with them, wants to use the money to help the poor — though he isn’t quite sure what condition qualifies as “poor.” Anthony wants to spend some of the money on creature comforts and invest the rest — in real estate, for instance.

The windfall, and the manner in which the boys handle it, eventually brings their father, Ronnie (James Nesbitt), to grief — as though he didn’t have enough trouble, what with being recently widowed and trying to shepherd his sons on his own. The domestic and financial matters are further complicated when Ronnie meets and connects with, as it were, an attractive woman named Dorothy (Daisy Donovan), who met the boys — and inadvertently discovered their wealth — while conducting a charity drive at their school. In the end, thanks to filthy lucre, all the principals learn something about themselves and about each other.



This is a difficult film to categorize, because it mixes some childhood hijinx with some serious themes. I have found some heated debate on movie web sites about whether it is even suitable for children, although the two boys dominate most of the scenes. Among the most ingenious and entertaining passages are Damian’s encounters with saints, including Joseph, Peter, Francis of Assisi, Nicholas, and Clare. These are not necessarily reverent portrayals, although the insight Damian gains from these conversations is usually therapeutic. And, after all, these are not presented as the actual saints but the saints as they exist in the imagination of a seven-year-old boy. Kathryn Pogson as St. Clare (“patron saint of television … it keeps me busy”) and Enzo Cilenti as St. Peter (“I’m on the door”) are especially hilarious.

Approach this with an open mind, and it’s a worthwhile experience.



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