Film Preview: millions

By Philip Murphy

How does one explain how two siblings with essentially the same parents, upbringing and experience behave so differently to the same set of circumstances? And when tragedy occurs these differences become even more pronounced. Such is the case with young Anthony and Damian Cunningham, after the death of their mother.

Nine-year-old Anthony deals with it in a very rational, practical manner, while his younger brother Damian uses his imagination, and sense of fantasy and faith to make sense of the baffling events around him. And when a suitcase full of money falls from the sky at Damian’s feet, it sets the brothers on an adventure that leads them to realize that the true nature of wealth has nothing to do with money.

From Danny Boyle, director of the critically acclaimed Trainspotting, Shallow Grave and 28 Days Later, and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce (24 Hour Party People, The Claim, Hilary & Jackie) comes this story of innocence, faith, greed and ambition as seen through a child’s eyes in northern England. Although Boyle and Cottrell Boyce made their reputations doing edgy grown-up films, they were both eager to do a film about children.

“I’d always liked the idea of writing a film that my children could enjoy,” explains Cottrell Boyce, whose family includes seven kids. “As a man with many children, I spend most of my time in the company of people who think they are pirates, or saints. So it was quite easy for me to tap into that energy. The characters in millions are actually quite sane compared to some of my own children!”

For his part Boyle was drawn to the setting and the story, even though he knew it would be a challenge. “Graham (producer Graham Broadbent, who originally conceived the idea of two kids finding a million pounds from a robbery) sent me the script and I thought the idea was absolutely captivating,” he offers. “I was also very keen to work with Frank, who comes from a long line of amazing writers from the Northwest.”

“When you originally describe the script, it could easily sound like some fluffy little British movie that will tug at your heartstrings and then make you giggle,” says Cottrell Boyce. “But Danny has made it so much bigger. The two boys really come to understand what a vast and complicated thing money is and how it completely takes them over and kind of swamps them. What the boys are really wishing for is something that can’t be bought.”

Boyle agrees that this is the heart of the film. “I think the spirit of the film is about trying to see if goodness is possible in, not so much a cynical world, but one in which people are very self-protecting,” he says. “We tried to see if it’s possible to make a film about an act of generosity.”

The film opens March 11 and is rated PG, but deals with issues of life after death and has some scary moments when the bank robber comes after his money, so is probably not right for very young children. For mature 8-year-olds and up.

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Philip Murphy covers family-oriented films for United Parenting Publications.