25 December 2019 | arungeorge13
A well-written survival drama backed by compelling performances! [+72%]
Helen is a great example of how performances and writing go hand-in-hand, a feat Malayalam cinema has shown great consistency in, ever since its new-gen resurrection. The film goes on to prove that Anna Ben as an actor, is here to stay. That infectious grin is slowly and steadily winning the hearts of every Malayali and in Helen, it's even plugged in as a key (and extremely heartwarming) plot-point towards the end.
It's an interesting screenplay that writers Alfred Kurian Joseph, Noble Babu Thomas (who also plays the character of Azhar, Helen's boyfriend), and (director) Mathukutty Xavier come up with. For a good part, the film is a survival thriller. But before the thriller elements get going, the screenplay strikes gold in weaving up a realistic father-daughter dynamic and a rather cute girlfriend-boyfriend situation. Lal and Anna Ben are terrific, and their dialogues never come close to being melodramatic or over-the-top.
Even the scenes involving Helen and Azhar have been written compellingly. There's a good flow to the proceedings. In the hands of a less capable director, the initial police station episode (featuring Aju Varghese as a baleful cop) could have ended up hammy, but here the emotions are underplayed and all actors on screen display wonderful restraint. The film does kick into high gear once the survival thriller bit gets going and it does manage to keep you on the edge of your seat for the most part.
Many would want to question why Helen takes certain decisions slower when she's in that 'tight spot' in the second half but that's where the weight of the preceding drama comes well into play. She hasn't had a great day both at home or at work, and an emotionally weakened person, when put in an unexpected predicament, is bound to think and act slower than usual. Yet, the one attribute that stays unequivocally vivid about Helen's nature - her kindness - right from the opening scene where she adores a garbage collector's earrings to smiling at the mall's security guard every morning to trying to help a dying animal (which was the actual cause of her day at work turning messy), is integrated into the screenplay so well.
The survival bits are staged decently and Anna Ben almost makes us feel her plight with every passing second (that's a mean feat for someone who's in just her second film!). Though for me, it's the drama surrounding those characters inquiring into Helen's sudden disappearance that appealed more (in the second half). At the very end, it's easy to spot certain clichéd elements from the Vineeth Sreenivasan school of film-making but they're forgivable considering Helen, both as a character and an entire movie, is memorable overall.