Despite the momentary distractions, the film manages to tell an engaging story entirely through screens.

Bearded Fahadh Faasil walks in front of a projected screen which shows the face of Darshana
Flix Movie Review Tuesday, September 01, 2020 - 09:00
Worth a watch

If you are watching C U Soon, Mahesh Narayanan's experimental new film, on a computer screen with multiple tabs open, chances are that you might be a little confused by what’s going on in the movie. The whole story is told through screens, after all. Desktop screens, chat windows, social media and mail boxes keep passing by and if you are like me, you’d itch to reach out to the mouse and close all the windows at once. But this is not your computer screen, it is the screen of the characters in the film – Kevin’s, Jimmy’s and Anu’s screens. That’s Fahadh Faasil, Roshan Mathew and Darshana Rajendran, playing these characters.

Confused? You needn’t be. Despite the momentary distractions, Mahesh Narayanan, who wrote and directed the film, manages to tell an engaging story, taking all your attention to the happenings on the screens. It is the first such film in Malayalam and is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Malayalam cinema is going through all sorts of firsts in these days of the COVID-19 pandemic when restrictions have forced new kinds of shootings, storytelling and film launches.

However, the actors of C U Soon seem to have adapted rather quickly to the new form. Acting and emoting, looking at a face on the screen, doesn’t appear to have bothered them much. You watch Roshan, playing Jimmy, gladly switching on his office laptop and scrolling through Tinder, the dating application, to look at female profiles. You have to wonder what kind of office this is, if only to apply for a job there. The day we watch Jimmy’s Tinder, he hears the ‘boing’ sound of finding ‘a match’. On the screen is Darshana’s face appearing below a profile named Anu Sebastian, living in Dubai.

Jimmy, we realise soon, is a guy who rushes into things. He sees a profile he likes, starts a conversation the next moment and by the second line, asks for a video call. Anu notices it too: thaan ellaam valare pettennanallo (you move too fast). While you imagine Jimmy as the typical young guy who keeps falling in and out of love, you look at Anu and wonder what she’s like. Why is she under the bed sheet, whispering, and always in the confines of her room? Is she not well, you wonder. There is none of the Dubai glamour in her life. She seems happy looking at the string of old family photos hanging down in the room and chatting shyly with Jimmy.

‘Fast’ Jimmy waits for a week before he proposes to Anu, dialling in his mother (Maala Parvathi) and cousin (Vaishnavi Venugopal) to join the call. “Really, will you marry me?” Anu later asks him, perplexed. Is that what she is wondering about, you think. Not, “what do you mean, marry, we haven’t even seen each other, forget knowing the first thing about me!”

That’s one constant about the movie – the speed. Everything has to be quick – the responses to the chat pings, the answers to the calls, the read-receipts. There is no space for delay in this quickly told story that brings out romance, mystery and a deeper issue in one-and-a-half hours.

Fahadh (as Kevin) joins the screens soon after Jimmy’s match finding. It is from him, Jimmy’s cousin with a high-tech snoop job, that you realise this is a habit for Jimmy – “Ya, this week, it’s her,” Kevin teases. But Jimmy claims he is serious. So Kevin is given the job of snooping about to find out if the woman is fit for Jimmy by the latter’s mother. Kevin, going through egoistic frustrations at his job, competing with a woman (Amalda Liz), wraps up his research soon enough, and tells his aunt, Anu is all good.

But in the next video call they have, Jimmy sees Anu crying, a big wound on her cheeks. She is that day unusually wearing makeup, and asks Jimmy if he could come and take her away.

The way Anu’s character is built up, it is not exactly out of the blue, the crying and the injury. While you see the surroundings of Jimmy and Kevin, the people walking by on their screens, you know little about the mysterious Anu. Only for lovestruck Jimmy, nothing seems amiss – like the fact that while she has social media accounts, she has no SIM card.

From the moment of the SOS call, the sweet world of flirting and romance is broken. It’s now layers and layers of a deeper story that you watch unravel with Kevin. While you are mostly focused on the answers, you are also shaken by fears of how much a stranger could dig into your life. All those stories of Cambridge Analytica and technology being the invisible spy in your life become real on the screen. Fahadh plays this guy so well that all you see on the screen is a tech guy on the job until a moment comes when he emotes quietly to a revealing video. There you glimpse the Fahadh you are used to, the man who lets his large eyes do the talking.

Roshan easily fits into the shoes of the new age flirty guy while Darshana, hitherto seen in movies playing mostly friend-of-the-heroine roles, takes care of the bulk of the emotions. It is not easy, and at times, the crying may seem all too much to take. But Anu’s life isn’t one we imagine it to be and Darshana makes it horrifically real for you.

Of course, the screens wouldn't tell the story by themselves. Separate windows on separate screens of all the characters had to be meticulously put together to tell a cogent tale. It should also not be too complicated and confuse the average viewer about what's going on. Mahesh, who is well-known for his editing skills, has brilliantly created a smooth narrative with minimal dialogues, all the screens converging to unravel the mystery. 

While music for such movies help, Gopi Sunder’s score often sounds out of place, taking your focus off the screens you have been concentrating on – lest you miss a line of chat that makes all the sense. There are these and other minor flaws you do notice, but can sweep under the carpet, considering the newness of the form and how much work has obviously gone into it.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film's producers or any other members of its cast and crew.

Also read: ‘Maniyarayile Ashokan’ review: Jacob Gregory is endearing in this romantic entertainer

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.