Midnight’s Children

Directed by Deepa Mehta
Written by Salman Rushdie
In Cinemas December 26, 2012

by Bernie Byrnes

Midnight’s Children is a coming-of-age story about a boy and also his country, both of whom are born at the same time at a pivotal point in Indian history. Saleem’s journey is intertwined with the struggles of the newly independent India, as it finds its own voice in the world.

This is an undeniably beautiful film. Deepa Mehta’s direction is stunning, the locations are amazing and the cast is enviably gorgeous. That said it is not a great film. The problems lie, in my opinion, with Rushdie himself. It’s rare to find an author who can create a good screenplay of their work and in this instance Rushdie misses the mark. There is some impressive writing delivered in the form of Rushdie’s dubiously acted voice-over: “Born in the hour of India’s freedom. Handcuffed to history.” and the like (clearly lifted from the book) are deservedly memorable lines but the storytelling itself is poorly focussed. The film dwells on sentimental scenes that fail to move and rushes over events that are genuinely interesting. The piece is packed with symbolism little of which is sufficiently developed to have any resonance.

This film oscillates unsatisfyingly between a history of India and allegory and sadly fails as either. One of the main problems is that the central character, Saleem, is just plain unlikeable. His prosthetic, permanently runny, nose is typical of the confusing plot points that clearly should mean something but are never clearly explained enough to do so.

I’ve been to India. I loved it. This film was a joy to watch for the cinematography, which was totally evocative of that beautiful country. However at 137 minutes it felt both rushed yet at the same time tedious, so I would recommend watching the film with the sound down and reading the book instead.

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