New Delhi chain-wallah Mahendra Saini (Rajesh Tailang) can barely support is family fixing zippers on the street, so when an opportunity to employ his 12 year-old son at his brother-in-law Ranjit's (Anurag Arora) distant cousin's trolley factory presents itself, the father feels safe sending the boy away. But when he doesn't return for the Diwali holiday and a wedding-preoccupied Ranjit appears at the train station without him, Mahendra begins to fear the worst and begins a long odyssey in search of "Siddharth."
Laura's Review: B+
Writer/director/editor Richie Mehta ("Amal") has created a modern day "Bicycle Thieves" with this devastating tale of an illiterate man trying to find his son with next to nothing to go on amidst the teaming masses of India. Mehta has crafted a tale rich in socioeconomic commentary as Mahendra seeks help from authorities, relatives, factory owner Om Prakash (Amitabh Srivasta), his own customers and strangers on the street. Despite the depressing implications of his story, the director still imbues his film with hope and even bits of humor. Mahendra and his wife Suman (Tannishtha Chatterjee, "Brick Lane") live in what looks to Western eyes like a concrete bunker. Their young daughter Pinky (Khushi Mathur), though, can dial and manipulate a cell phone without even glancing at it. Siddharth's young cricket playing friends cannot shed any light on his whereabouts so Mahendra takes away their goal post, scattering the game away from his door. When he calls Prakash, he's told his son 'ran away two weeks ago,' news that had already been given to Ranjit (we later learn that Suman's brother received a commission for sending him, a betrayal with sinister implications that hang in the air). Turning to a traffic cop he knows, Mahendra is directed to the station where he's chastised by the female officer for disregarding child labor laws. He has no photo to give the woman and, downtrodden, returns home and immediately takes one of Pinky. Mahendra is determined now to travel to the factory, but it's almost impossible to raise the fare on 25 rupees a day (less than $1). Suman begins to resent her husband's inability to provide, increasing his desperation, but he makes his way to Punjab and while Prakash remains unhelpful, Mahendra gets a tip from his son's former roommate, who tells him that missing kids are taken to Dongri. Mahendra cannot find anybody who's ever heard of this place, but he believes in it, asking everyone he can until a woman whose handbag he's repairing locates it on her Smartphone as a region in Southern Mumbai. (Mehta's film was inspired by just such a question from an illiterate man searching for his son in this mythical place.) Tailang grounds this film with his plodding decency. We see the fear grow in his eyes as the enormity of his situation envelops and confuses him. Your heart cannot help but go out to this man whose simple act of trust has turned into a nightmare. When he mistakes another boy for his own son, his anguish is palpable as we realize his fading memory has come back to haunt him, how we take things for granted when preoccupied with the daily toil of living. The man's naivety is highlighted when he's commandeered by Mukesh-Bhai (Mukesh Chhabra, "Trishna"), the leader of a gay street gang who charge him for the right to do business while making sport (thankfully, Mukesh-Bhai is not what he at first seems). The drabness of the Sainis' New Delhi wanes as Mahendra travels farther than perhaps he ever expected. Mehti adds more and more bursts of color, signalling optimism. Cinematographer Bob Gundu has a great eye for composition, lending visual interest to the most mundane scenes. Mehta's direction keeps us teetering between hope and despair before providing catharsis in an unexpected way. His final shot is haunting yet hopeful. "Siddharth" is the type of little film which can get lost in the shuffle, but it's well worth seeking out. It does what the really good movies do best - opens our eyes to the experiences of lives lived outside our own existence. Grade:
Robin's Review: B
According to Moore, nearly 50 million Americans do not have or cannot afford health care. But, “Sicko” is not about these hapless uninsured. Instead, he turns his eye toward the rest of the Americans, 250 million of us, that do and the industry that is less concerned with the public’s health and care and more concerned with enormous, and I mean enormous, profits. The doc focuses, at first, on individual Americans who pay for health care but refused treatment by the providers for being too thin, too fat, too young or for whatever reason they can come up with to avoid paying out. Some are refused because they have a preexisting condition – in the case of one young woman for having had, at one time, yeast infection – or that the treatment is “experimental.” It chronicles how doctors receive bonuses from the health care companies when they refuse to treat a patient for the above reasons and more. Many of which are ludicrous. Moore gives historical shrift to the current state of the American health care system by way of President Richard Nixon’s push for the HMO system designed to reduce health care to American in favor of more and more profits to the providers, Henry Kaiser and his conglomerate in particular. Less care for more money. Sicko” also chronicles the campaign by health care providers to stop a national health program because it is that evil demon - socialized medicine. Moore shifts gears when he goes to those countries that have, over the past decades, nationalized their health care systems – Canada, Great Britain, France and, even, Cuba. He shatters the myth that these nations provide inferior care for their citizens and visitors and interviews those individuals who benefit from socialized medicine. Moore hammers home the need for health care reform, using the internees at Guantanomo Bay to show that even terrorists have better health care than the average American. Sicko,” I hope, influences the powers-that-be to initiate reforms that will guarantee all of us proper, affordable and available health care. Moore failed, with “Farenheit 9/11,” to keep George Bush from reelection in 2004. My wish is that he succeeds with his latest quest.