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There are times I wish I'd been born a Catholic instead of a Jew. For one, I'd have had something to rebel against; for another, I'd have had a personal relationship with the saints, including, of course, one of my very own. Danny Boyle's film "Millions" makes me envious of a fervent believer like 7-year-old Damian, the child in his film who speaks to the angels and does good deeds because, well, that's what the saints require of us.
Damian (Alex Etel) and his 9-year-old brother Anthony (Lewis McGibbon) are the lost children of a widower, Ronnie (James Nesbitt), who mourns the recent death of his wife (Damian asks his saints if they've seen St. Maureen - his mother - yet). One day as Damian is in his cardboard playhouse in the vacant lot next to the railroad tracks, a Nike athletic bag stuffed with money falls almost on his head. It has come from heaven, of course, and Damian knows that it's been given to him to do good deeds with. Anthony, though, knows the real world, and knows also that a problem with having £265,000 is that in a week Britain will convert to Euros and the pounds in the bag will be worthless.
And so does the not terribly bright train robber who had to ditch the bag and now comes looking for his money. This is a lovely, dare I say almost miraculous, setup for a film, and I only wish the rest of it weren't such a letdown. With the exception of a few delicious twitches - a group of Africans with halos shows up and Damian says: "The Ugandan martyrs of 1881!" - and Anthony's inventive scheme for dealing with the conversion of the money - the film moves in little predictable lurches toward an inevitable end. Will Ronnie find someone again? Will the saints find a way to help Damian through his loss? What do you think?
I don't mean to belittle this film. Danny Boyle, the unlikeliest of directors - "Trainspotting," "Shallow Grave," "28 Days Later" - and writer Frank Cottrell Boyce - "Welcome to Sarajevo," "Hilary and Jackie," "Twenty-four Hour Party People" - have thrown away every bit of adult cynicism and let us see what you might call their inner child. We take Damian seriously because they take him seriously. Alex Etel looks a little old for seven (he was nine when it was filmed), but he so utterly believes in his character that we are moved and charmed at the same time. And Boyle's use of magic realism, treating the saints exactly like everyone else in the film, except that they wear halos, is also a lovable touch. But the film's rhythms twist and jerk a bit too much, and too awkwardly, to call this a complete success. Still, its pleasures outweigh its problems, which is rare enough these days. <! new pasted review ends on line above>