When Helen (Anna Ben) does not return home from work, it’s an agonising wait for her father — a widower (Lal). Accompanied by his neighbour Raghavan, the search for Helen begins.
After checking with her friends and colleagues, they understand that Helen had left her workplace in the evening. She works at Chicken Hub, a fast-food restaurant inside a shopping mall.
She might have gone out with her boyfriend Azhar, so they visit his home only to be told that Azhar was on way to Chennai for a new job. Finally they lodge a complaint at the police station. Where exactly is Helen?
Helen’s father is not only worried but ridden by guilt and remorse. Only a few days ago he had been summoned to the same police station to pick up his daughter who was there with Azhar, who had been intercepted by the police for drinking and driving. That’s when he learnt about Helen’s relationship with Azhar. Since that night, he hadn’t talked to his daughter and now she is missing.
Unknown to everyone, Helen is locked somewhere where she has to battle sub-zero temperatures using whatever is within her reach to ward off the cold and loneliness.
From the moment the film opens it’s the writing of the characters and their lives that draws you in. Scenarists Alfred Kurian, Noble Babu Thomas and director Mathukutty Xavier bring out a brilliant screenplay.
Helen is a nursing graduate who is planning to migrate to Canada for work and clear the family loans incurred during her late mother’s illness. Juggling between her job at Chicken Hub, she is also attending English classes for her IELTS. She shares a great bond with her father and their relationship is marked with beautiful moments.
Lal and Ben make an excellent combination with their spontaneous acting. The actress brings alive Helen with her broad and warm smile and the omnipresent twinkle in her eyes. The detailing of Helen makes you like her immediately. She is compassionate to everyone — every morning she visits the neighbouring family before leaving for work to give an injection to the old woman there and while disposing the trash bag she has a kind word for the garbage pickers.
Without making Helen an over-the-top bubbly character, Ben reveals a sensitive person. Then she brings out the fighter in Helen while struggling through the predicament.
Having watched Lal’s many films and his different roles, one is not surprised anymore by the natural ease with which he portrays his characters. You only admire the nuances he lends to each character. The father here who goes through remorse and guilt while battling anxiety over his daughter’s disappearance is most poignantly done by the star. And the silent treatment that this father gives to Helen after knowing about her relationship with Azhar is true to life.
Noble Babu Thomas as Azhar impresses. Subtle yet very much a part of Helen’s life, Thomas is good. The fringe characters are equally well sketched. Aju Verghese reveals another side to himself. His sub-inspector Ratheesh with his malicious and insensitive attitude brings out the hidden performer. Another lasting impression is left by Rony David Raj. As the much disliked manager at Chicken Hub, David Raj proves his mettle. Behind the grumpy exterior lies a man with his own frustrations.
There is good humour thrown in between especially in the scenes with two jailbirds inside the police station. Poignant is the moment that Helen shares with a rat that is giving her company in the cold environment.
‘Helen’ finds its place in Malayalam cinema as a rare gem. Well crafted in writing and acting, at its core lies a simple tale of human relationships and endurance.
Don’t miss it!
‘Helen’ releases in the UAE on November 28.