The Pool (Unrated) ***

By Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune

A poor, skinny young man named Venkatesh (Venkatesh Chavan) hides in a tree atop a hill near the back yard of a wealthy man’s home in the city of Panjim, Goa, along India’s west coast. No one ever goes in the pool. For the illiterate 18-year-old, gazing at the water becomes a symbol of attainment, freedom, escape.

From this premise, Milwaukee-based filmmaker Chris Smith, best known for work in the documentary field, relays a simple, optimistic slice of life.

Venkatesh’s 11-year-old friend (Jhangir Badshah) works in a restaurant; Venkatesh cleans toilets and changes bed linen in a nearby hotel. When Venkatesh finally meets the pool’s owner (Nana Patekar), director Smith and his co-writer Randy Russell, who wrote the original short story, unpack a few secrets having to do with the owner’s family, and why the pool sits so conspicuously unused.

The film is a bit schematic and sweet-natured, perhaps to a fault, yet the faces linger.

Smith and his mixture of actors and non-actors remind us that an act of generosity is all it takes to change a life.

Cast: Venkatesh Chavan, Jhangir Badshah, Nana Patekar

Director: Chris Smith

Screenwriters: Chris Smith, Randy Russell

Producer: Kate Noble

Running time: 98 minutes. Playing in Miami-Dade only: Cosford.


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