Directed by Danny Boyle. 2004.

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In Millions, Danny Boyle and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce have produced a delightful fantasy about children, faith, money, and idealism that sharply contrasts with standard children's movie fare based on fear and simplistic notions of good and evil. Danny Boyle employs enough cinemagic to transport us completely into the world of seven-year old Damian (Alex Etel), a pint-size miracle worker and his older brother Anthony (Lewis McGibbon) as they cope with disposing of a huge sum of money found near their play area. Actually, no special effects are needed, just being around the children is enough to convince most people that there is magic in the world. 

As the film opens, the family is in process of moving to a new housing development. Their father Ronnie (James Nesbitt) is protective of the boys who have just lost their mother. At school Damian tries to fit in, but when asked to name people he admires, unlike the other children in the class, he recites the names of historical saints rather than contemporary sports personalities. After Damien builds a play shelter from the boxes left over from their move, some saints show up to have a chat with the boy, beginning with St. Clare of Assisi (Kathryn Pogson) who tells him that she is the patron saint of television. He talks with the saints as if it is an everyday occurrence and, for him, it probably is.

The young boy's life changes quickly when a duffel bag filled with a quarter of a million pounds is thrown from a train and lands close to his boxed retreat. He thinks that God has singled him out to help the poor and his brother advises him not to tell their dad because the government will take away 40% of it for taxes. They soon find out that with a week, England will be changing its currency to the Euro and, unless it is changed right away, will soon be worthless. Damian has more gold in his heart than in the sack and, following the advice of St. Francis of Assisi (Enzo Cilenti), is intent on giving the money to the poor. He takes the homeless to dinner at Pizza Hut and gives some cash to Mormons who use it immediately to purchase a microwave, a digital television, and other material goodies. Another saint appears and tells Damian that it wouldn't take much to bring water to the poor in Ethiopia who need a well.

The plot becomes a bit involved with the appearance of Dorothy (Daisy Donovan), who is on a mission to raise money for the poor and to explain the Euro conversion to the schools. Her relationship with dad brings up a longing for mom and this provides an ending that is rich in its pure exuberance. Millions doesn't hesitate to use a heavy amount of magical realism but it never becomes too cutesy or over the top. Alex Etel as Damian turns in one of the best child performances I've come across in a long time. He's got a lot to handle in this film and pulls it off with much aplomb, allowing us to appreciate his generosity and compassion and be captivated by his wide-eyed innocence and charm. 


Howard Schumann
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