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Dear Friend movie review: This Tovino Thomas-starrer is a slow emotional drama about fleeting friendships

The makers use the metro setting of the film to great extent, especially in the day and age where you don’t go digging into each other’s past and prefer to live in the present, unattached to the pressures or expectations that come with families

3rating
  • Sanjith Sidhardhan

Last Updated: 03.23 AM, Jun 11, 2022

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Dear Friend movie review: This Tovino Thomas-starrer is a slow emotional drama about fleeting friendships
A poster of Dear Friend

Story: A group of friends based in Bengaluru, who are working together to begin their own company, quickly form a bond. However, an incident with one of them soon shakes their friendship as secrets come tumbling out and changes their lives forever.

Review: What does it take to forge a friendship? It could be trust, similar interests, offering support when it matters the most or just being there. Director Vineeth Kumar and scriptwriters Suhas, Sharfu and Arjun Lal through Dear Friend tries to show how even the deepest of bonds can crack if one of these variables is taken out of the equation.

The movie revolves around the group of friends – Vinod (Tovino), Shyam (Arjun Radhakrishnan), Sajith (Basil Joseph) and Arjun (Arjun Lal) – who plan to begin a start-up and end up becoming friends. It starts off by a birthday prank played on Vinod that ends up a mess, with him vowing to pull off something similar on each of their birthdays. Later on, an incident involving Vinod has each of them on tenterhooks, also shaking up their bonds and changing their lives forever.

Dear Friend is mostly set in Bengaluru and Mumbai – the metro hubs where diverse youngsters share rooms and become friends over time with strangers. The makers use this aspect to great extent to tell the story, where anybody from anywhere can become your friend, especially in the day and age where you don’t go digging into each other’s past and prefer to live in the present, unattached to the pressures or expectations that come with families. After all, friendships are also a getaway from those. The characters in Dear Friend reflect that and all of them have baggage, be it Jannath (Darshana Rajendran) who marries her boyfriend against the wish of her father, Shyam, who wants to rebel against his family, or Sajith, who is under financial pressure to help his family with the construction of their house.

The makers, however, don't spoon feed these details; it comes out in trickles throughout the emotional drama that takes its pace to unravel. It’s not as breezy as some of the popular Malayalam movies such as Bangalore Days or BTech that are set in Bengaluru, but this despite being about a gang of friends, tries to bring out how fleeting their relationship is. It’s more about how each incident after the mysterious disappearance of one of them begins to show what the friendship meant to each of them. For instance, for Shyam, it was about achieving something without his family’s help and his reaction to the incident is immediate anger. But for Sajith, who got financial and emotional support from this particular friend, the transition is gradual but eventually complete. The writers also show the interpersonal dynamics between each member with Arjun and Jannath at one point feeling Shyam and Vinod are trying to avoid them.

Those who have lived in the busy urban cities and shared houses with roommates will connect with some of the characters in the film. It also shows how the company you keep has a profound influence on the identity you create for yourself and sometimes, when you focus on the latter, you tend to take everything else for granted. In fact, Hakkim Shajahan’s character tells the group of friends to stop chasing a ghost and rather remember the good times. 

Tovino’s character Vinod is what drives the film, but it’s never rooted and deliberately so. This could be a turn off for the theatre-viewing audience, who would rather get sucked in by the mystery instead of being let in on bits and pieces of his character’s past, but none truly providing closure. Vinod is designed as a character with a transient identity, moving from one place to another, and never letting you figure him out. Who is he? Why did he do all the things he did? The reply the character gives while insufficient is sometimes all you get from such a person. In that sense, the actor succeeds. Darshana as a psychologist gets a role that isn’t too challenging for an actress of her calibre and makes it seem easy. The casting of Arjun Radhakrishnan, Arjun Lal and Basil too help in understanding their characters better, because they don’t come with the baggage of their previous work.

Shyju Khalid’s cinematography captures the crowded and yet detached life of the people in Bengaluru and Mumbai. He uses the empty streets, interiors of cramped houses and locations of parties to great effect to highlight the mood of the film and Justin Varghese’s music maintains the slow tempo that Vineeth Kumar sustains from start to end.

Verdict: Dear Friend evolves as a slow emotional drama that would have worked better as an OTT release. While packed with several layers showing how fleeting friendships can be when you are young and in the city, the movie takes its time to unravel these and those looking for closure can come off disappointed.

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