In this Bollywood-esque musical, 9 year-old Amudha discovers she is an orphan from war-torn Sri Lanka. In a moment of bravado she and her adopted family decide to face their greatest fears and travel to her violent and turbulent homeland in order to reunite with her birth-mother. Along the way they encounter shocking, terrifying and dazzling wonders and have the adventures of a lifetime. Music by the Academy Award winning composer of Slumdog Millionaire.
May 27, 2005
By Jonathan Curiel
In his native India, Mani Ratnam is heralded as one of the country's finest directors -- someone who consistently explores complex issues in dramatic settings -- and in "A Peck on the Cheek," we get Ratnam at his best, albeit with a few glitches.
The story revolves around a family that has an adopted girl named Amudha. The girl's birth mother, Shyama (Nandita Das, the great actress from "Fire" and other Indian movies), gave her away after fleeing the Tamil area of Sri Lanka, where separatists have waged a bloody campaign against the central government. After learning the truth about her adoption, the 9-year-old Amudha (P.S. Keerthana) persuades her parents (Madhavan and Simran) to search for her biological mother -- a journey that takes the well-off couple and their wide- eyed daughter through the minefield that is Sri Lanka.
What they witness is unnerving and edifying -- unnerving because they put themselves in the middle of a dangerous war, edifying because it makes them understand the pressures that Shyama faced when she relinquished her daughter. Ratnam conveys the conflicted feelings of Amudha and Shyama to great effect. Ratnam also conveys the stunning beauty of the island nation of Sri Lanka. (The film was shot in southern India, whose landscape mirrors that of Sri Lanka.) He even includes a few episodes of singing that lighten the film's atmosphere.
On the downside are several scenarios that seem entirely implausible. How is it, for example, that Amudha's family is the only one in a Sri Lankan park that happens to get surrounded by soldiers who then get into a major firefight with Tamil guerrillas? Also, audiences unfamiliar with the history of Sri Lanka will wish "A Peck on the Cheek" had a written prologue that explained who the Tamils are and why they're rebelling against the government. (The film's title apparently comes from a line by the Tamil poet Mahakavi Subramaniya Bharathiyar.)
Still, "A Peck on the Cheek" explores universal themes of displacement, struggle and family -- themes that will register whether an audience is in San Francisco or somewhere in Sri Lanka.
--Jonathan Curiel/ San Francisco Chronical - Review
By Adam Nayman
This lavish Indian comedy-drama is unsure of what it wants to be, but still manages to be charming and consistently entertaining. A Peck on the Cheek is a sweet, funny, fairy tale about the adopted daughter of loving parents who wants to find her real mother, even if it means running away from home. The structure is a little ungainly -- there's an ill-advised subplot about guerrilla fighters in Sri Lanka and an epic framing device set in the past that's underdeveloped. But the performers are expressive, and the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous.
--Adam Nayman/ Eye Weekly - Review
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Jeff in Seattle - Customer Review
maryuska - Customer Review
An insightful and nuanced portrayal of the emotional undercurrents of a girl, her adoptive mother, and the birthmother who relinquished baby at birth. The adoptive mother struggles to accept what it means to be the mother her daughter needs, despite her own feelings of fear, resentment and betrayal, by helping her daughter find and face the past. Their journey brings the child face to face with the hard realities of life that tore her apart from her native family. With the tender open heart of the young, the girl offers her love to a birthmother who has closed herself to the past, in a willful effort to forget the tragic circumstances of separation. Reluctantly the birthmother opens herself to her daughter's love, and then gives her the gift of life again by walking away. Unable to change the past, the three have reconciled themselves to the reality of their present lives.
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