If the song, Mazhaye mazhaye from the directorial debut of Sujith Vaassudev, James and Alice, got you drenched in that romantic cloudburst along the all-too-familiar lanes of Fort Kochi, rest assured, that's all the kitschy romance you're going to get. What you see later is an afterthought of romance, through the marital disharmony of James (Prithviraj) and Alice (Vedhika).
When the film starts, there's no romance; they are married and coping. Alive, but kicking hard against the wall of denial that seems to have fast risen between them. The routine saga of the interplay between busy schedules and unmanageable lives fill up the first half, where the couple are on the verge of breaking free. Taking a leaf out of the tightrope walk shown off by the power couple in Mani Ratnam's Alaipayudhe, the story seems to be taking a brisk walk down the predictable lane, but stops short at the sly wink of the divine presence standing right on the divider.
Here's where the story takes a leap of faith and goes off the beaten track. The narrative does take you for a spin around ideas of life and death, but over time, there are very few directors who've pulled off ideas like these with panache, be it death of the main protagonist or waking the dead. Sujith Vaassudev, despite an honest attempt, gives up at the end of the journey, where redirecting the viewer who has already seen the movie's end in her mindscape would have been a far better idea.
The story offers a fine twist midway, but slowly starts to drawl and extend its foreseeable ending, which becomes the major setback. For a film that has put all its energy into relationships and transient life, the narrative could have been more nuanced with a fine-tuned body language. It could have broken the monotony and brought in some intrigue with Prithviraj and Vedhicka playing up the subtlety of language to such good effect.
Prithiviraj has kept it simple, and it goes well with the quiet persona of his character. He is especially perceptive when situation demands only a quiet ruffle of emotions. Vedhicka's character is etched out well; she's the one that doesn't make vocal her demands out of life, but is well watchful of how often she has to give in. The strength of the character is again, a dormant self, which she has capably executed. Sai Kumar and Vijayaraghavan bring in the right measure of confidence to the script with their presence. 'Peter' works his charm as well. The friend/confidante/colleague of Prithviraj, Parvathy Nair, could have mouthed at least a few insightful pointers from the advertising point of view, which would have saved her from being just a pretty face.
Beautiful cinematography with a blob of green in every frame, aerial landscapes that blow crunchy fresh air is the high point of the film. Gopi Sundar has picked the emotive elements, and deftly planted a good song here and there.
An exceedingly slow-paced film, with less humour or other remarkable agents, James and Alice isn't everyone's cup of tea. The feather touch of something celestial keeps it engaging, but the magic, sadly wanes.