You might smile like that, too, if a great bag of money fell out of the sky.
The smiling boy is Alexander Etel, who plays 7-year-old Damien in Millions, the quirky British film about intimate loss and found money. Recently released on DVD, Millions received moderate buzz last spring, played for about seven minutes in Spokane and vanished before I could see it in a theater.
Millions is brilliant in a number of ways. Director Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, Trainspotting) uses brilliant colors. The dazzling landscapes play against the gray emotional tones of grief that Damien and his older brother Anthony (Lewis McGibbon) experience at the recent death of their mother.
Their father Ronnie is played by Jack Nesbitt (the lovelorn farmer in Waking Ned Devine), who is appealing here as a dad who tries his hardest to fill the hole in the family with a new house in the suburbs. But he also curls up at night with two pillows to fill the emptiness in his own heart.
Small moments like that abound in the film, offering counterpoint to Boyle's mad, straight-on depiction of a surreal and often comic telling of what happens when the money crashes into loss. Damien sees saints and miracles. ("St. Peter. Died, AD 64," he says to one bedroom visitor. "All right then. Don't remind us," the prickly saint snaps back.) Anthony sees bling and savvy investment opportunities. ("Has it retained its value?" he asks a real estate agent. "Up 20 percent," the man replies.) Damien believes the bag came from God -- "Who else would have that kind of money?" -- and is relieved his brother can see it, too. "Sometimes you see things and other people can't see them," Damien explains.
Sometimes you find a ray of faith in a movie that lets you see that grief and darkness will pass.