Directed by: Danny Boyle
Starring: Alex Etel, Lewis McGibbon, James Nesbitt, Daisy Donovan
Rated: PG for thematic elements, language, some peril and mild sensuality
Parental Notes: This is a sweet film for all ages. Youngsters may be a trifle distressed by the villain, who is a menacing fellow, but there’s almost no actual violence and the “mild sensuality” of the rating involves the sexual tension between the boys’ father and his new girlfriend. We see the two of them wake up in bed together, but nothing explicit.
If the name Danny Boyle rings a bell with you, it probably makes you think of zombies, dead flatmates, heroin-addicted Scots, or some combination of the three. Boyle is best known for his films “28 Days Later,” “Trainspotting,” and “Shallow Grave.” None of these are particularly uplifting, nor are they family films, but Boyle’s newest production is both. “Millions” is an enchanting fantasy starring a pair of young English boys. No zombies. No murder. No drugs. Just wonder and warm hearts.
When Damian (Alex Etel) finds a huge sack of money full of pound notes, he assumes it’s a gift from God. This is understandable — Damian sees saints and is such a innocent child at heart that it never occurs to him the money might be from somewhere else, like, say, a bank robbery. Anthony (Lewis McGibbon), his older brother, is a lot more practical. Anthony is the kind of kid who uses the fact that their mother is dead to get free candy (“our mum’s dead!” is his refrain). He’s not bad at heart, he just knows a good thing when he sees it and finds it easier to deal with their loss by making a profit on it.
The boys hide the money from their father Ronnie (James Nesbitt), who is coping the best he can. Ronnie has moved the family to a new, big home as though to make up for the loss of his wife by giving the children the very best. Damian doesn’t think much of the new place, though. He dislikes having his own room and creeps in to sleep with his dad when he can. After school, he plays in the house he constructed from moving boxes — it’s cozier than their new, oversized house.
Damian wants to give the money to the poor — all of it. Anthony, ever practical, uses some of the money to get them friends at their new school, and starts looking into ways they could invest the rest of it. His plans are complicated by the fact that England is changing over to the Euro in a week so they have limited time to use it and Damian’s tendency to sneak some of the money away and give it to people he thinks need it. His recurring question, “are you poor?” becomes a refrain for the film.
It would be very, very easy for a film like this to become what the British call twee: so cute and sweet as to be incredibly irritating to anyone with even a hint of cynicism. But Boyle knows his cynics (the brilliant “Shallow Grave” is one of the most cynical films around) and tempers the film with realism. The children see everything through the lens of childhood, but adults in the audience can see past their na