That Christmas (2024)


That Christmas Review

When the most fascinating part of a movie is its story. And the story is not unique to the film but still so much fun to watch.

Katrina is Maria, a young mom with a secret. Sethupathi is Albert, a man back in Mumbai after 7 years, also with a secret. On Christmas Eve, as South Bombay lights up in all its festive glory, these two meet at a restaurant, and the said secrets first are shielded with slightly more ferocity, until both these people’s tough exteriors crack open, confessions twist, and turn into even more secrets.

Again mild spoilers ahead I can’t stress this enough. Who gets killed, and who does the killing obviously you won’t hear here, but if you like to pick up clues don’t watch or watch.

The “Kaid mein bulbul” motif runs through the film. Maria is in an awful unhappy probably abusive marriage but can’t leave for her child’s sake. The building’s elevators cast cage-like shadows on her face every time she goes up or down. A bird in cage xmas ornament makes its presence felt. And everything that happens one night is compressed into a small time frame contributing to claustrophobia even more so on and so forth etc etc blah blah you get it right? Good. Albert has just regained his freedom after many years while osmosis confined narrow space begins to expand once their paths cross and Maria sees an out and new life of Albert begins to close around him again except he doesn’t know it yet.

The French film is called Paris Pick-up in English but let me warn you watching that MIGHT cloud your judgment of Merry Christmas Because everything about that film is similar to this one only better

Everything that’s wrong with Merry Christmas, is fixed in Paris Pick-up. In one scene Maria and Albert come together to wreck a few things in the middle of the night, inside a building. All I could think about was can’t the neighbors hear this in crowded Bombay? Noise pollution is addressed in Paris Pick-up, set in the 60s, by shooting some scenes that are specifically loud showing you how noise carries when there’s no one around to hear it in an empty space of the building, whether you watch and see for yourself.

Merry Christmas is so stylish. Every scene is on top of Daniel B George’s background score which is a technical triumph of an homage to Hindi cinema of the 60s that mastered camp murder mystery. Teesri Manzil, Jewel Thief, and Hamraz…. all then inspired by the visual stylings of a Hitchcock movie and literal twists of a Sherlock Holmes novel. It’s fun to hear Sriram Raghavan and editor slash co-writer Pooja Ladha Surti’s take on “Something is afoot” through music it almost allows you to visualize a graceful, agile, acrobatic thief who also happens to be very small jumping from scene to scene sniggering to itself finger on its lips. This makes it more frustrating when you see the film stomp heavily where it needs to also be light most notably richly opulent set where most of the action takes place i.e. Maria’s apartment. The exquisite beauty of production designer Mayur Sharma’s work weighs too heavy and distracts people in front.

Vijay Sethupathi is perfectly understated as Albert. A man who has returned to the city after many years realizing it isn’t what he thought it would be. He says his favorite film is Pinnochio yet he is the most honest character we meet here; even his lies have noble intentions behind them. His telling Maria “I’ll have anything fermented except dosa batter” when asked to come in for a drink is funny in sardonic, smart-ass Sethupati fashion. He enjoys the freedom he suddenly has by claiming the city at night. Having a coffee on the street watching a movie in a large theatre talking to a singer at the bar eating a comically larger sizzling dish brings you along each little adventure only a gifted actor and their inquisitive eyes can.

Merry Christmas is also Katrina Kaif’s best performance, tied with her role in Zero. Maria isn’t particularly motherly her attention wavers from the child a lot but perhaps that’s because Maria didn’t want to be a mother. She wants what Albert has now the freedom to be by herself. Katrina is understated and like her character keeps it together rehearsed and on plan right until the end.

All characters gather in a police station where different stories of how they got there intersect with each others. Some policemen detective and his assistant are the only comic figures in the movie. But they don’t become cartoons, remaining quite believable even when their boss walks off to think over something funny or when he is about to reveal the truth within seconds after coming closer to it. The scene in which Vinay Pathak takes a ‘thinking break’ may be as hilarious as Aamir & Salman’s confrontation in Andaz Apna Apna with Tiku Talsania among them, and his sudden insight while moving towards truth can create such an atmosphere as Pran had the opposite Amitabh Bachchan throughout Zanjeer. It was done much better here than in Dunki, thanks to skillful changes of tone.

Watch That Christmas For Free On Gomovies.

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