The one person to truly emerge unscathed from Penguin is the one whose character suffers the most within it: Keerthy Suresh. I bought her anguish, her frustration, her tears, and around the time the film begins, the melancholia on her face almost successfully masks that this is a film that’s set to hurtle downhill soon. There’s no hint of this in the beginning though. I particularly enjoyed how the titles begin rolling, right after Keerthy Suresh’s character, Rhythm, encounters a flashback episode of her trauma. Rhythm—Ritu as her husband calls her—is a vulnerable, pregnant woman, the kind such thrillers usually have at their centre. Her pregnancy is primarily a tool to cause you discomfort—like when she falls down, or howls in agony, or in an enjoyably disturbing scene, when she sleeps with her pregnant belly exposed, as a child with a glass shard takes aim. Rhythm wouldn’t enjoy this commentary of mine, because as she sees herself, “I’m just pregnant, not brain-damaged.” This though feels simply like a cursory empowerment line, in a film that quite simply cannot seem to make up its mind on whether Rhythm is a daredevil or a frightened victim. One minute, she’s hiding in mortal fear, barely able to come face to face with the person who’s caused her years of misery. The other minute, she’s putting herself—and her kid—in harm’s way, showing, for instance, little urgency in getting out of a killer’s lair. This lair, meanwhile, is so decorated by blood splatter that I imagined the killer walking around with a bucket of blood, carefully making sure to cover every corner of the wall with blood drops.
Director: Eashvar Karthic
Cast: Keerthy Suresh, Lingaa, Rangaraj
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
It’s a film whose fleeting intrigue never truly builds into something bigger. Perhaps composer Santhosh Narayanan spotted this and realised the consequent futility of attempting to build on the shallow horror in the material. Perhaps that’s why in scenes featuring a mother bawling over a lost baby, his music remains curiously detached and blithe—like it were simply killing time by itself. The title, Penguin, is apparently because penguins are supposed to be fiercely protective mothers, but some of Rhythm’s behavior is frustrating to behold. She’s a woman who puts herself—and her child, again—in harm’s way, but who lacks the survival instinct to pick up one of about two dozen weapons placed strategically near her. Penguin, as I said, cannot seem to make up its mind on whether Rhythm is a clever, brave mother, or a scared, witless idiot.
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For the remainder of this review (and there’s a lot more left, I assure you), visit https://www.cinemaexpress.com/reviews/tamil/2020/jun/19/penguin-movie-review-keerthy-suresh-is-good-the-film-is-not-18992.html