Review: Netflix’s ‘Irul’ Is a Gripping Tale of Drama and Mistrust
'Irul' is psychological thriller which is Nazeef Yusuf Izuddin's directorial debut
Review: Fahadh Faasil’s ‘Irul’ Is a Gripping Tale of Drama and Mistrust
Gentlemen you had my curiosity... but now you have my attention.Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
That would be most of us after seeing the trailer of Irul. What’s there not to be excited about - a psychological thriller with ace actors and a promising debutante director. Conveniently being streamed on Netflix too. Well, let’s just say it doesn’t disappoint.
Irul, meaning darkness, is Naseef Yusuf Izuddin’s first outing as a director. Naseef has some pretty impressive antecedents, having worked as an assistant director in Bollywood with films such as Kai Po Che!, Happy New Year, Raees, Newton and Tumbbad.
A whodunnit is tough to pull off, especially on the mature audiences that we are today. We have a fatigue of a 'seen that, done that' in almost all genres. And Irul’s beginning is pretty unspectacular too. Even the setting is a bit of the usual mystery trope - a rainy night, a solitary couple, car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, a strange mansion and its even stranger occupant. It meanders a bit initially and takes a while to settle down. But when you stick with it the unraveling is unsettling, exciting and keeps you guessing and missing and guessing and getting it right… as a thriller should.
Irul is enjoyed best if you go in not expecting a Hitchcock or Nolan. Just some good gutsy fresh take on a promising ride of earnestness.
We have a newly in-love couple, played with ease by Soubin Shahir as a popular writer Alex, and his workaholic, cellphone addicted girlfriend Archana, radiantly played by Darshana Rajendran. The film is set on a fun weekend getaway the two have planned to get to know each other better. Circumstances force them to seek shelter at a strange house in this back of beyond place. Enter Fahadh Faasil - a kooky stranger living in a bohemian, filled-with-candles, retro style home that seems stuck in some interior designer’s bizarre wet dream.
Faasil always does interesting things to his characters and he elevates this one too. Creating a multi-layered character you want to root for, but know you mustn't, yet you do. He makes use of all his brown-eyed charisma (eyes that have many a YouTube edit dedicated to it).
The three of them together propel the movie forward, taking us on a journey of lies, counter lies, suspicions, drama, distrust and mistrust. Soubin’s Alex has the most interesting graph, and he’s masterly at shading in all the nuances. Playing Archana and her initial flirty, coquettish persona and subsequent chaos of tumbled up emotions, Darshana eases into a well deserved lead character.
Her spontaneous dialogue delivery is a treat. For his part too, Fahadh Faasil infuses Unni with an intrigue and guile we have sort of come to expect from him.
The tight scenes with all three are riveting. Everyone is suspicious and everything adds to your confusion, but never is the audience taken for granted or treated like fools.
Of course, Irul is not without its faults. It turns occasionally gimmicky, especially a sequence which features swinging camera shots between the three characters. It works once, but is repeated annoyingly often. The pace slackens in parts and one can’t help but feel a bit of tighter editing might have helped the film.
The performances too look a bit theatrical in parts. Adding to that, the home and its opulent sets seems jarring and unnecessarily elaborate. In fact, that’s something we notice a lot in Malayalam movies these days - an overly ornate Windsor/ Tudor style of interiors to depict occult or mystery or intrigue. Today’s version of the white frilly dressed angels that were ubiquitous in every dream sequence of yore, as it were.
The twisty plot, sophisticated production values and strong performances will no doubt persuade us as viewers that we’re watching something of intelligence and caliber. Still, though the film is well made, it stays maddeningly on its own polished surface. It has many parts of ease and fluidity, and while that’s commendable, it does have a feel of “I’ve seen that before” at the end. It’s absorbing but not deeply memorable. It’s smart but not clever or probing enough to be brilliant. It takes its chances but is not truly risky enough to break any cinematic barriers.
Yet, Irul is a fun watch. The acting is excellent and enthusiasm of the team seems to shine through. I’d totally recommend it. And somehow, the oppressive home, unending rain and characters getting on each other’s nerves brings back nightmares of the lockdown adding to its relatability. That is probably entirely unintentional! Unwittingly, its relatability is the most endearing quality of the film. Though it’s as far removed from most of our lives, it seems to be a very plausible situation we could find ourselves in. The darkness in the night. The darkness in us. The reality is the horror.
Reminds me of what Hitchcock once said… “A glimpse into the world proves that horror is nothing other than reality.”
Rating: 3.5 Quints out of 5
(Sangita Nambiar is a writer, active theatre person and deep sea diving enthusiast.)
(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.