Director Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Amen opens with a sweeping panorama of a picturesque village called Kumanrankari with glistening waters and palm fronds, where he introduces us to the Christian community.
The story centres around an old church managed by Father Ottaplackan, a stickler for tradition, who does not appreciate the flashy attire and cool attitude of Father Vittoli, the new and young priest appointed to the church. Nor is he keen on continuing with the church band that has been tasting defeat at the hands of a rival band.
Solomon, a young clarinet player from the band struggles to make himself heard as he aspires to play like his dead father but is always overcome by fear and nervousness, reason enough for everyone to put him down including his sister, Clara. Solomon is in love with rich girl Shosanna, despite her brother’s disapproval. But with a twist of fate, Solomon’s clarinet becomes an object of challenge not only for the sake of his church band but also to win the hands of Shosanna.
Amen touches the heart with its simplicity, tickling viewers now and then with its humour and gently sending the message of love, the triumph of goodness over evil and humanity over religious tradition.
It is hard to single out any one actor for his or her performance. Joy Mathews as the old priest matches Indrajit, the young exuberant music-loving priest, Father Vattoli, whom you will end up falling in love with. If Fahad Fazil reveals yet another aspect of his versatility as an actor in Solomon, then Swati Reddy as the bold Shosanna makes an impressive Malayalam debut. You will see a different Kalabhavan Mani as Loius Pappen, the senior most member of the church band and an old friend of Solomon’s father, who believes in Solomon’s talent. Natasha Sehgal plays Michele, a French violinist with a soft spot for Father Vattoli.
Prashanth Pillai’s music is a big plus to the story, with its freshness and melody. Capturing the beauty of the village in every hue, especially those scenes bathed in moonlight and drenched in rain, cinematographer Abhinandan Ramanujam’s impressive work leaves a poetic trail in every shot. My favourite scene is where the villagers in their white attire travel in boats at night looking pristine flanked by greenery and the beautiful night sky overhead.
The toilet humour and dialogue, including expletives, somehow seem to blend in well with the story.
Jose Pellissery, after his earlier successes with Nayagan and City of God, scores a hat trick, creating another ripple in the new stream of Malayalam cinema.