The film tries to do several things at once, succeeds at none, and is unsure what genre it belongs to despite positioning itself as a mystery drama
The story is set in 1968 in a small town called Mill Valley in the backdrop of the Vietnam War. A group of teenage misfits and their new friend stumble upon a suburban legend about a girl named Sarah Bellows who was killed in a haunted mansion in the late 19th Century. A book that belonged to Sarah which writes by itself describing how each victim will die is recovered by Stella Nichols (Zoe Margaret Collettithe), the protagonist, and eventually comes to haunt them.
There have been several films from the Malayalam industry in recent years that have pushed the boundaries of filmmaking by creating excellent cinema on a shoestring budget. These films have set a benchmark so high it becomes increasingly difficult to objectively scrutinise films such as Alice in Panchalinadu without pointing out how poorly it has been made.
Apart from a few fancy camera shots in some exotic landscapes along the Western Ghats, the film has failed in every department. The screenplay, for instance, is inconsistent with the character interactions, surprisingly adding very little to the overall narrative. In other words, the movie could have been a silent film and hardly anyone watching would have felt the need for words. The story, in fact, doesn’t even take shape until halfway through the runtime when the titular character Alice (Kamya Ahlawat) makes an appearance for the first time. She barely has any lines in the movie, and her entire arc in the narrative was for one particular scene. In hindsight, her role in the elaborate plot to entrap the antagonist could have just as easily been executed by any other character, which inadvertently makes the titular character’s role redundant.
Ignoring the many obvious plotholes, several other glaring issues should have been rectified in post-production. The film’s sound design was arguably its weakest aspect, the lip sync and dubbing were out of sync from start to finish, and the background score was simply not up to the desired standards for a feature film. Even the editing of scenes and the transition between them were subpar, with cuts thrown in at random. However, the film’s greatest flaw is that it is unsure of what genre it belongs to. At certain points, it comes across as a romantic family drama, with some very obvious similarities to hit films Oru Indian Pranayakadha and Vellimoonga, but later, it shifts to a generic heist film — a very forgettable one at that.
The film lacks substance, or even style, for that matter, and is impossibly tedious to sit through for the entirety of its run time.