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Tuesday, January 22, 2019


(Lillette Dubey, Leeanda Reddy, Jailoshini Naidoo, 
Kajal Bagwandeen-Singh & Rahul Brijnath)

A heartwarming film with universal appeal. (Review by Clinton Marius)

A friend and I once got lost in the narrow side streets of Rome. We thought we’d find nothing of interest, but then turned a corner and stepped out into a small town square featuring the amazing Trevi Fountain. Nothing could have prepared us for the surprise of this spectacle of trickles and bursts of water that splashed over the beautiful statues that make up this famous tourist attraction. An unexpected treat!

I was reminded of this experience while watching the new South African movie, 3 Days to Go. Like the Trevi Fountain, its beauty is not immediately apparent. At first, the film beguiles one into thinking it is merely a frothy comedy, with witty dialogue and clever use of split-screen cinematography to introduce us to the characters and the world they inhabit. A family have lost their father. They gather together to prepare for his funeral.

As the story unfolds, it becomes clear there is more to this tale than a few laughs. We are drawn deeper into the politics and dynamics of this particular family, and while they depict an Indian clan in Durban, they also represent every family, and the issues they face are those we all experience at some stage or other.

This is one of the many strengths of the story – it is not about people we cannot identify with, but rather, is an account that has universal appeal. Their pain is our pain, their journey is also our journey.

As we meet the members of this family, we realize that time, and the vagaries of life, have created havoc. They are all, in their own tragic way, victims of the circumstances that have led them to this point. As they interact, old resentments surface, past events cast their dark shadows, and current animosities and misunderstandings cloud their judgement and erode their self-worth. This is a family that have learned to ignore their wounds, a family that pretends that all is well.

Another achievement of this heart-warming film is that the cast, a stellar line-up of some of South Africa’s finest performers, work in perfect harmony. There is no scene stealing or ego here, just the distilled and respectful honouring of a remarkable script. The result is a seamless ensemble that makes it nigh impossible to single any actor out over any other.

Bollywood star Lillette Dubey deftly plays the matriarch who finds herself acting as referee between her warring children. She brings a quiet and steady confidence to the ensemble, and her journey from helplessness and detachment to control and certainty culminates in a shocking act of tough love that has to be seen to be believed.

The roles of her adult children are played by Leeanda Reddy, Jailoshini Naidoo, Kajal Bagwandeen-Singh, and Rahul Brijnath. Each brings a very special magic to their roles. Reddy delivers a powerful and multi-layered performance as the daughter who has stayed at home to look after her parents, and the chemistry between her and Jonathan Boynton-Lee, who plays her fiancée, is electric. He, in turn, is charming and assured in his role.

Naidoo plays the sister who is in an abusive marriage, and she shows her dramatic mettle with one of the most sensitively nuanced performances of her career. This is a Jailoshini that audiences don’t often see, and the introverted restraint with which she depicts her character is a masterclass in acting. Pranesh Maharaj plays her nasty husband, and does so with chilling realism.

Bagwandeen-Singh, who is executive producer of the film, as well as casting agent, plays the bubbly and materialistic jet-setting sister. At first, the performance seems vacuous and two-dimensional, but this is another of the film’s ruses. As the character’s personal pain bubbles to the surface, we see a complex woman masking her unhappiness by shopping and jet-setting, and she expertly brings all this emotional depth, and baggage, to the fore.

Brijnath gives a poignant performance as the wayward brother, and this tour de force is his finest offering to date.

Zakeeya Patel and Kiara Govender are also outstanding as the daughters of two of the sisters. Govender plays a moody teenager who dresses in black and is obsessed with death, and she cleverly balances the humour and tragedy of her character. As her naughty, older cousin, Zakeeya Patel offers up a fearless and brazen performance.

Also noteworthy is Ashish Gangeparsad, who plays an oversexed Brahman. His hysterically funny performance had the audience in stitches at the premiere of the film. So did Tumi Morake, who plays a no-nonsense crime boss, who is, at turns, very funny, but also scarily dangerous.

Tragedy, comedy, betrayal, fear, hatred, deception, pain, love, redemption, and the true spirit of family are all woven into the tapestry of this moving film. Writer and director Bianca Isaacs, along with producer Gregory Mthanji, and executive producer Bagwandeen-Singh, have brought to life a masterpiece whose impact lingers long after the credits have rolled.

Excellent cinematography, and a delicate and tender soundtrack by Benjamin Willem are further aspects that make 3 Days to Go a work of art. The film turns the spotlight on Durban, and is sure to attract more film production to the city and province. Funding by DTI, KZN Film Commission, IDC, EDTA and Figjam Entertainment indicates that they recognize the value of home-grown stories being shot locally. In the past few years, the films that have come out of KwaZulu-Natal have grown from strength to strength, and 3 Days to Go builds on this, and raises the bar. It is a film South Africans can be proud of, a film that will make you laugh and cry, and draw your own family closer in newfound appreciation.

3 Days to Go opens in cinemas on January 25, 2019. Don’t miss it! – Clinton Marius