Review: 'True Love' by S Vicknesh

True Love' will be screened at the Substation on 10 April. Check more details on the film's website.

For a bland and generic title like ‘True Love’, one does not expect too much from the film, especially after a trippy opening sequence of jumpy camera work.  However, patience pays off in watching the film. It does a thorough grinding of the issue of true love through a tangled web of relationships between several characters. Husband being infidel, wife running away with a stranger, two married women engaging in lesbian love, True Love runs a whole gamut of different permutations. All seen through the eyes of a private investigator (P.I.), who needless to say, plays God in this.

‘True Love’ is S. Vicknesh’ maiden feature attempt and offers quite some food for thought in a mostly gripping 80 plus minutes. The film follows the emotional and investigative journey of a private investigator who is doubly troubled from a rocky marriage and the theatrics he witnesses from his clients. At home, he is in a constant tussle with his career-driven-regional manager of a wife who comes home late. And testy. At work, he faces a stunning but no-nonsense lady who wants to track down her husband and a hormonally-raged man who wants to get even with his wife’s lover, whoever that may be. It is of little wonder that he is beginning to be two minds about his job. He approaches the cases dragging his feet and finding his own roadblocks.

Vicknesh does a competent job of eliciting very natural performances out of his main actors and steers clear of melodrama even when the situation beckons. Debra Teng nailed every expression in her role as the estranged wife. The actor played Lizard, the gang boss, with composure and complexity. The lady who played the career wife had one of the toughest roles given her duality but gave redefined poker face. The lead actor who played the P.I. held us onto the journey with his furtive eyes but could do with a bit more punctuation in the way he expresses himself. Noticeably, the director has a penchant for watchful eyes and does lingering shots of his characters surmising their various situations.

While the P.I. bumbles along his work with a hint of reluctance, the story really starts to get interesting when his wife’s late night suppers are becoming a regular fixture. At the same time, doing his job brings him closer to understanding the alienation his own wife has brought upon him. While skipping a plot pivot to avoid a spoiler, the pivoting point, albeit a little too abrupt, re-ignites the sniffing investigative instincts in him. So he sets of in a determined way to uncover, not an infidel spouse, but crime this time.

While the director manages to cook up believable exchanges between the characters, he falters in knowing how to punctuate those moments, sometimes resulting in dialogues that amount to a drone. It also does not help that the lead actor speaks in a drowsy monotone, though he is more adept with his eyes. Noticeably, split-second flashes of scene-playback together the abrupt gray-scale interjections that look like your TV needing a fix, are peppered throughout the film, like the director’s way of accentuating moments. Sometimes, this looks like a convenient stylistic motif. But if it is to heighten the adrenalin, then more thought could be put into tightening what seems like loose TV-style sequences.

Having said that, the film runs on a pretty tight script. All the dots join and lead, in a logical way, to a thoughtful cliffhanger ending. At the very core, the choice of a P.I. protagonist is shrewd as it welds all the subplots together nicely like a spokes of a bicycle wheel. One person leads to another and somehow it finds its way back again in the web of relationships. Just like how the protagonist who initially chose to close the door on the estranged wife, he ends up in a closer encounter with her at the end. Without drama, just frozen stares, the film takes us to an epiphanic high-point and leaves us to complete the love equation.

Here is the film trailer:

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