The Pool

The Pool (2007) is an oasis of calm blue serenity, quietly reflecting the aspirations and yearnings of a young man in an otherwise harsh selfish world of grinding poverty. It’s a charming and sensitively observed, naturalistic, almost documentary like portrait of the coming of age experiences of a pair of young boys eking out a living on the streets of Goa, India. 

Directed and written by Chis Smith using a small American and Indian film crew on a shoestring budget, they went to Goa with a story outline and a couple of laptops. Inspired by the local environment and using actual street kids who they found working there, they improvised and created a sincere moral fable.

A curious observant young teen, Venkatesh from a nearby rural province, aimlessly dreams of making it big in the city, as he works cleaning rooms for a hotel in the capital of Goa, Panaji. When he’s not working, he admires the enticing tranquil sight of a clear blue glistening swimming pool, while sitting in a mango tree overlooking a summer home occupied by a wealthy man from Mumbai, and his young daughter. 

The dialogue is minimal but very organic, adding a level of documentary like realism. The movie slowly but steadily works its magic as we become drawn to and then mesmerized by the authentic characters, who we follow on their daily routine. Without realizing it, we’re subtly lured into their lives.

One day, Venkatesh follows the pool owner into town and offers his services to help prune the lush garden surrounding his pool. The man, Nana, played by the only well-known Bollywood actor in the film, Nana Patekar, having lost his son and wanting to impart his wisdom to someone, puts him to work in his garden.

The visuals are beautifully photographed with 35mm handheld cameras in the picturesque environments of this former Portuguese colonial beach city, adding to the realistic and immersive feel. We get to see the actual people who work and live in places as they really exist, making this film a fascinating glimpse into the Goan way of life. 

While working in the Garden, happy to finally be close to the pool he had admired from afar, Venkatesh meets the pool owner’s beautiful daughter and is immediately entranced by her impish nature. He slowly starts to engage her in conversation and introduces her to his best friend Jhangir, who also works in the city. The three of them eventually become friends while hanging out together and traveling to different parts of the city. 

The music score is another wonderful element in the film; an Indo-Portuguese melancholic mix of mandolins and violins. The Fado inspired music gives a feeling of longing and loss that fits perfectly with the classic story of people living with their past in an environment evocative of an ancient lost civilization. 

As Nana, the pool owner, mentors Venkatesh, he eventually offers to give him a real education if he will come to Mumbai with him. Venkatesh must now make a life changing decision. Will he leave his friends and family and his peaceful life in Goa, or will he stay and pass up a big opportunity to study in the exciting city of Bombay? 

Like a free spirit from an Arabian Nights fable, Venkatesh, by quietly observing life from the branches of his mango tree and because of his generous nature, makes some simple deductions that lead serendipitously to him making his modest dreams come true while helping those around him. Don’t miss this unexpected genuine gem of a film that deserves all the attention it can get.



Jon Jefferson said...

Although I am not a fan of foreign films, I do find the idea of getting glimpses of actual life through this one to be interesting. Fictional movies tend to show the extremes of life more than the mundane and everyday. Exploring the every day of a culture is a great way to learn about those who live in different parts of the world.

Morgan@Eat Right Newsletter said...

I am a person who loves documentaries and foreign films, and this sounds beautifully done. There is nothing more wonderful than an organic film that unfolds naturally on its own to create an original piece. Great review, I'll have to check out The Pool!

MK Slagel said...

I am so excited to hear about this film. I love foreign films and I love films that are produced on small budgets as well. What makes this film even more appealing to me is the fact it was shot on site giving the entire film authenticity that you can't get any other way.

Kelly Wade said...

I love movies like this that are authentic and real. The idea that they went to a city and let real people be in the movie is enough to make me want to watch it. The gritty details of an Indian town sound like cool scenerey to make a documentary-esque film. Thanks for the review!