Looking at the world through the eyes of a child can be one of the most innocent, beautiful things. They’re always filled with hope, wonder and a brutal sense of honesty. This appears to be the aim of Danny Boyle with Millions, the story of a young boy, Damian (Alexander Nathan Etel), who happens upon a big bag of money. At times Boyle succeeds with near perfection. However, the adult world creeps in often enough that it drags the entire effort down in the process.
Damian is a delightful little boy. He’s polite, deep thinking, honest and full of imagination. With his smile and freckles all of the world’s aunts could very well converge at his home and pinch his cheeks for days and nights on end. While Damian’s home is filled with much sorrow given the passing of his mother, Damian is still optimistic for the future. He builds cardboard castles and visits with the ghosts of various Catholic saints.
One day a sports bag filled with more than £200,000 falls from the sky, literally. With the pound giving way to the Euro in just a few days, Damian looks to do good in the world with the money. It’s from his pure and genuine heart that you get hooked into Millions.
The film’s first act starts out very promising. It’s filled with many wondrous moments of imaginative visuals, such as Damian and his older brother imagining the building of their dream home. Their counting of the money is another instance of Boyle capturing the feel of childhood. These scenes have the feel of a happy Tim Burton. They’re sweet and nostalgic but when you see an angel lighting up a spliff, it avoids being sentimental.
Damian reminded me of the title character in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” He’s cute and has an innocence so pure that he is part of Boyle’s fantasy world as well. But that doesn’t mean you don’t like him. In fact, I think it’s impossible not to like Damian and wish that all the children in your neighborhood were just like him.
After Boyle establishes Damian, his family and his quirky new community, Millions really starts to lag. The imagination gives way to simple subplots. It’s as though Boyle abandoned the childlike prism he created with the first act and grew up. The second half of the film maintains a lot of its innocence, but at the same time it becomes a story told from an adult perspective. And once that happens, most everything has the feeling of familiarity.
Like its lead character, Millions is a film filled with the right intentions. In real life sometimes such intentions lead to problems as they can be out of touch with the reality of a situation. Millions has several very strong moments. Unfortunately it loses its perspective along the way and becomes little more than something cute.