It's difficult to believe that June was written by three men - Libin Varghese, Ahammed Khabeer and Jeevan Baby Mathew, and one of them - Ahammed - has directed it. It is one thing to make a convincing woman-centric film, but to get each little gesture, expression and spontaneity of teenage girls correct - really, these men might have solved the biggest universal problem since time existed: they have finally understood women. Or at least girls. June - the protagonist - goes through teenage to her mid-20s in the movie, but most of the focus falls on her adolescent age. Not just hers, but quite a few girls and boys, belonging to a certain year, and still connecting to generations, living through the same stories of love and loss and friendship, and a certain feeling that years later you term as nostalgia.
It is the first of June in 2006, and our June is getting ready for her first day in Class XI. Like girls do in those years of new interests and curiosities, she tries to tuck in folds of her uniform skirt, to reduce the length, and makes do with some substitute for lipstick, styling her hair to look like the movie star who is all the rage. But like mothers do, June's mom catches her before she leaves the house looking like Madonna, untucks the skirt to make it stay long, and rubs away the makeup. Aswathy, the actor we saw with Kunchacko Boban in Satyam Sivam Sundaram, effortlessly turns into a teenage girl's mother, concerned about the growing daughter and the affairs of the home. Joju George comfortably plays the more friendly parent, laughing at June's efforts to look stylish, throwing in casual advice, and pouring his daughter her first drink.
The funny part is that none of this is unusual, these are probably the most ordinary happenings of an average girl's life, and yet that's what makes it so enjoyable. Rajisha Vijayan could be the girl-next-door we know - the one going to school who is a little talkative, has the occasional tiff with the mother, but is overall a perfectly ordinary teen, who does not make news. That's how wonderfully the actor we last saw as a loserly girlfriend in her award-winning first movie - Anuraga Karikkin Vellam - transforms. She makes June endearing. June is not a first rank holder or a gorgeous stunner who makes every boy in class fall in love with her. She is the girl who introduces herself in class as June, a girl who does not really have any special talents. That's how she connects with Noel, the new boy in school, who is so nervous he can't pronounce his name properly.
Ahammed Khabeer does not limit the story to just these two people and their young romance. A whole class is introduced, characters becoming familiar in the few scenes they have in the first half. There is the three-boy gang that always hangs out together, the new girl who looks fabulous and wants to become a supermodel, the mimicry specialist, the short-haired Bangalore girl, a girl who wants to be an actor and another who sings. The lines spoken between them are also so very of-the-momentish. "Look at the boy in the second last bench, looking like Harry Potter, both of you don't look together." Or, "Look at that girl with the pimples, it means hormones. She will fall for someone right away." Even the teacher's character is introduced with a smooth touch - she whistles her way into the class - not in an attention seeking way, but to remain in the memory of her students years after.
Between these much relatable school scenes, Ahammed shows June's home life, the just-cooked banana fry her mother makes which June rushes to taste, the evening prayers interrupted by the missed calls on the landline the new boyfriend gives "as a code". The comedy that comes through these situations is also beautifully merged into the story.
All the actors playing the schoolchildren (and who later grow up with June), including Arjun Ashokan, bring the characters so close to you with their performances.
There are no dramatic pauses to show the passage of years, so you don't feel time passing by as you travel with June, from school to college to a job in Mumbai and then coming back home. New musician Ifthi's songs help when the years pass gently by and emotions remain unchanged. You notice June's hair grow, her dressing change, her thoughts evolve as she turns into an independent young woman, without having to make smart dialogues about it. But something basic about her - the genuineness with which she faces her feelings and expresses herself - does not change. It is only much later, when you watch the grownup versions of the others in her old school, that you notice that time had passed so much, and the director managed to bring the same ache to all of us, that June and her friends must have felt, looking at their old photos.
Ahammed does not seem to have had the least bit of trouble finding a place for himself in Malayalam cinema, or understanding what works when you make a coming of age film. How else would he have been able to do a film about the ordinariness of life and make it look so beautiful!
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.