Film: The Valley

Director: Saila Kariat

Cast: Alyy Khan, Suchitra Pillai, Samina Peerzada, Agneeta Thacker, Salma Khan, Hope Lauren, Emielyn Das, Jake T. Austin, Barry Corbin and Christa B. Allen

Rating: **1/2

Debutant director Saila Kariat’s The Valley is a tautly scripted redemption tale set in Silicon Valley.

The IT industry is said to enhance the way of life for humans. And those working in this sector live a very competitive life, struggling hard to beat the competition, sacrificing their personal life to a great extent.

This is what Neal Kumar (Alyy Khan), the CEO of the IT Company called Virtually You which is on the verge of launching its latest technology Augur, meant to enhance human connectivity, realises after the death of his younger daughter Maya.

Maya’s death was not a natural one, but a suicide. What leads her to take the drastic step niggles, Neal. He hits his nadir. Despite knowing that he will not get his daughter back, he torments himself by tracing her last few days, only to realise that his idyllic family was not what he and others around him had envisaged.

Narrated in a non-linear manner, the graph of the telling is effortlessly smooth and flat. While the plot revolves around Maya’s death, the director avoids lingering on the details of the event per se but instead navigates it astutely to the redemption angle. The narrative creates a warm hold on our feelings because it engrosses you.

The fable about the pearl diver and his family — “The poor couple thinks that the perfect pearl will solve their problem, but it doesn’t, so they throw the pearl in the ocean” — snuggly fits into the narrative. It effortlessly delivers a subtle message.

While the screenplay is precise with its setups, payoffs and character arcs, the scenes are theatrical with a depressive atmosphere constructed by the setting and the dialogues.

A lot of the dialogues are spoken in natural tone but the lines, are dramatic: “In a strange way I feel relieved”, “And I feel sick” or “Why can’t you tell me the details”, “Sorry I’ll try harder” or “I’m just a housekeeper, Nealji.”

The direction is astute and the cast is natural. They all perform earnestly. Alyy Khan as the weary and unwavering Neal Kumar, Suchitra Pillay as his jaded wife Roopa, Samina Peerzada as the housekeeper who is fondly called “Didi”, Salma Khan as Neal’s older daughter Monica, Emielyn Das as the younger Maya, Agneeta Thacker as the older Maya.

Jake T. Austin as Maya’s boyfriend Chris, and the characters that play Alicia and Laura – Maya’s roommate and friend, all have their moments of onscreen glory.

Each actor also benefits from the fine work of cinematographer Paul Nordin. Though his lens doesn’t focus on anything, in particular, it captures them as well as the locales with a flourish. And a few shots with smooth camera movements display his mastery over his skill.

The visuals accompanied by Jacob Yoffee’s melancholic background score elevates the viewing experience.

Overall, with a run-time of 98 minutes, The Valley is a well-made, engaging film despite a disappointing end.