Danny Boyle puts the usual cynicism he injects in much of his films on hold, for a Spielbergian fairy tale of greed, wealth, and saints. Boyle’s tale of young boys whom fall upon an enormous amount of money is often times a very sweet and bright film very much in the vein of “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” sans the violence. Boyle’s departure from darkness is a rather unique and well done story of greed and emptiness. In usual fashion, Boyle unusually goes from red eyed infected monsters, to two brothers coming of age with a million dollars. Well—it’s not really a million dollars, it’s more like thousands, but the fact that the two main stars describe it as millions adds to the charm.
But Boyle gladly never departs from the surrealism, and his film is a very visual and pleasing Capra-esque parable. In one scene the two young brothers stand in a field while they envision their new house being built right in front of their eyes. Boyle’s characters act like children, thankfully, and they treat their money like children would. After moving in to a new town, Damian, an introverted seven year old, talks to saints on his spare time, conversing about life, and his mother. These saints, manifestations of his conscience and trauma, teach him about doing good. One day a huge sack lands right on his box fort, and in it he discovers thousands of dollars. His brother Anthony, an angry and frustrated young boy, helps him sort out the money, and they decide to keep it. Not since “In America” has there been such a cast of genuine child actors playing genuine children whom argue and bicker, and most amusingly—use the death of their mom to get whatever they want.
Often bright, and sweet, “Millions” examines two purposes of money; greed and materialism, and charity and giving. Though a bit too idealistic in its premise, the story examines the effects and after effects of good intentions, and wealth, and with a supernatural touch explores innocence tarnished by doubt. The hilarious Daisy Donovan plays a sweet role as a charity representative who befriends Damian and is welcomed in to the family romancing his father and helps to make sense of the dire situations. As the film progresses it becomes much darker, and as per usual Boyle, there’s a definite amount of menace added to Damian’s enjoyment of the cash which he insists must go to charity. In spite of a weak second half, “Millions” is a sweet film about struggling with loss, your faith, and family, and it’s about how sometimes money can’t buy happiness.