Production Company: Fox Searchlight
Director: Danny Boyle
Principals: James Nesbitt, Daisy Donovan, Alex Etel, Lewis McGibbon, Kolade Agboke
Rating: PG (thematic elements, language, some peril and mild sensuality)
By Gregg Tubbs
(UMCom) -- It’s important for children to have someone older and wiser to turn to for advice, such as a parent, older sibling, teacher or pastor. But Damian Cunningham (Alexander Etel), the young hero of Millions takes it to extremes. He gets his advice from a steady stream of long-dead Catholic Saints. But then again, any eight-year-old who unexpectedly has a small fortune thrust upon him could use all the help he can get, including a little help from heaven.
Damian, his older brother, Anthony, and their father, Ronnie have just left their old flat and moved into a spacious new house outside Manchester, England. We’re never told why they are leaving, but it may be that their old home is simply too filled with memories of their recently deceased mother and wife.
|Damian (Alex Etel) and his brother Anthony (Lewis McGibbon) unexpectedly discover a small fortune in Millions. © Copyright Fox Searchlight|
Each of them responds to this loss differently. Ronnie wraps himself up in the "business" of fathering two young boys. Anthony, playing the strong, older brother, keeps his feelings bottled up, but occasionally vents at his younger brother in a way that shows he is still just a little boy himself. Damian’s response is entirely different. A kind and spiritual child, with a healthy imagination, he turns to his beloved saints, who actually appear to him for solace and advice. These saints are a bit irreverent and humorous, but wise enough to leave us wondering if they are imaginary or literally divine intervention.
One afternoon, as he’s in his cardboard clubhouse, chatting with a particularly obscure saint, a satchel stuffed with money literally falls from the sky into his lap. Damian is convinced that the money is a sign from God and wants to give it to the poor. Anthony, ever the realist, wants to invest part of it on real estate, but also uses some of the money to pay an entourage of schoolmates to pedal him to school on a bike, carry his books and hold doors for him.
Before long, the brothers learn just how complicated managing several hundred thousand British pounds can be. They are convinced that they can’t tell their father, and alarmed to learn that the money was stolen from a parcel of old bills scheduled by the government to be destroyed. To further complicate matters, Britain is about to switch over to Euros and the old British pounds will soon be worthless. Even worse, there’s a very angry train robber out to reclaim his loot, and he’s closing in on the boys!
|Damian (Alex Etel) dreams about all the ways to spend his newly discovered fortune in Millions. © Copyright Fox Searchlight|
As it turns out, the film would have been just fine without the addition of the train robber, because all of its most intriguing dilemmas are moral. Without ever getting too heavy, or preachy, Millions grapples with several weighty issues, all through the earnest eyes of angelic Damian. Should they return the money, even though it was going to be destroyed? Is it right to give stolen money to charity? How do you decide who needs the money most? And why is it so hard to do what you think is right, when so many around you would do things differently?
Most importantly, Millions is about the nature of Christian charity—the call to feed the hungry, heal the sick, care for the helpless and sacrifice some of what you have, for those who have less. It’s a very simple, almost first-century-style, Christian philosophy that sometimes seems neglected today. As Damian sees the greed and materialism that surrounds him, he is discouraged. But as one saint assures him, "There’s still enough good around to keep going on." The identity of this wise and "new" saint is one of the most satisfying surprises in this touching film.
Millions is a heartwarming and sweet fable with an uncanny sense of the miraculous potential of the human heart. The title refers not to millions of dollars, but to the millions of people you could help, by something as simple as giving money to provide clean water to an African village.
|A kind and spiritual child, with a healthy imagination, Damian (Alex Etel) turns to his beloved saints, who actually appear to him for solace and advice. © Copyright Fox Searchlight|
In the film’s best scene, and one that forces you to really explore the core of Christian charity, Saint Peter appears to Damian. He gives the boy an astonishingly different first-hand account of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with just a few loaves and fishes. Peter’s interpretation of this well-known miracle might be unorthodox, but it illustrates a point sometimes overlooked. Jesus didn’t just perform miracles to care for the people around him, but was teaching us to care for each other as well.
Gregg Tubbs is a freelance writer living in Columbia, Md.
This review was developed by UMC.org, the official online ministry of The United Methodist Church.