Lover, directed by Prabhuram Vyas, is a modern-age romantic drama that makes you want to put yourself first among the many others you love and care for
Arun (Manikandan) and Divya (Sri Gouri Priya) meet each other by chance in college and get into a relationship that is now six years old. Although they seem to share the chemistry and intimacy that a long-term commitment would warrant, things are never smooth between them. They fight, bicker, plead, argue, and brood over each other’s behaviour. But they strive to be together (or not?) until all hell breaks loose and they must decide what is more concerning for them: the trauma inflicted upon them by their relationship or being with each other.
What makes us stay with a person for long enough despite the relationship being a playground of red flags? Is it really the love and affection we have had for the person or the emotional and psychological growth and time we have invested in them that make us not want to leave them? Lover is an answer to this question, or more so, a think piece on this topic that never seems to have one right answer.
The film glimpses through Arun and Divya’s courtship period. After a few moments of eye contact and montage, we get to know that Lover isn’t a film about meet cute situations and falling in love. It is a film about how two people get to know the real selves of the other, having tolerated much in six years, and are thinking about where this relationship will head despite knowing that they are not carbon copies of each other.
Arun is a poster boy for a man who mollycoddles his lady to the extent that she becomes claustrophobic. They are a couple who have their fair share of ugly fights followed up by make-up sex. You know it’s not the first time Manikandan makes a ruckus and asks Divya to get out of her apartment when the latter anticipates the chain of events just with his door knock.
We are never told how and why the couple fell for each other; instead, we are given instances that incite an argument that ends on a toxic note. In many instances, Lover is a realistic compilation of emotional abuse that one can go through at the hands of their partner. It isn’t cathartic when they apologise, but the least possible token of accountability for their gaslighting. Lover does a decent job of portraying this complex rumble of emotions.
At one point, Manikandan broods to a fellow male friend, saying, “Na avala bayangrama love pannen” (I loved her a lot), to which the other replies, “Bayangrama panna love panna mata” (she won’t love if you do it so hard). It precisely summarises how love can turn toxic, and over-caring becomes a claustrophobic web of control and boundary-setting.
Lover is Manikandan’s show of talent. He plays a boyfriend who is insecure yet wants authority over his relationship, flamboyantly taking charge and shrewdly confronting. But he gets meek and goes down on his knees when his girlfriend takes the ultimate step.
At times, you cannot comprehend why Manikandan’s Arun behaves a certain way with his girlfriend while he doesn't want his father to do the same with his mother. He also makes openly immature statements when he asks his friend, “You are giving freedom to your girlfriend. Is it working?" to which the friend answers, "Who am I to give freedom to her?" The film could easily avoid such flat dialogues since it tries to highlight issues that are much deeper.
Lover largely takes the side of one partner—the one who is not at fault. But however much it shows how pain can be inflicted, it doesn’t soak in long enough to know how it can be processed. The film does a great job of highlighting the trauma of emotional and psychological abuse, but never gives enough breathing time to show the much-needed recuperation time for someone who undergoes abuse.
Or perhaps Lover is a film that only wishes to make statements against what is wrong and leaves little room to show support and companionship for those who need healing. Nevertheless, Lover is a daring and much-needed film to show new-age relationships that are not marred by just soporific and superficial conflicts, but invariably simple issues.
Lover packs a punch in the way towards the end. There is a lot of brooding and healing that the couple gets. The film may not cover the entire healing journey, but it makes a brutally honest case for the complexities that arise in modern-day relationships, where couples don’t shy away from saying what they feel.
The screenplay stagnates at times, but overall, it makes the smallest of issues the biggest. And rightfully so. Lover is a film that takes the realistic route to show how much emotional and psychological abuse can take a toll and make people do what they do. It is a film that doesn’t advocate for time stamps in a relationship. More importantly, Lover is a film that makes you want to put yourself first before those you love and care for.