The Crow's Egg

Scott Wallace
16th Nov 2015

Inevitably, The Crow's Egg will be compared to Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle's rags-to-riches story that came out top dog at the 2009 Oscars. However, this film, the debut for Indian director M. Manikandan is a far more subtle and poetic portrait of contemporary India.The delicate and tender film seems almost like a fable, but at its heart it is an indictment of the exclusive and divisive Indian class system.

Set in Chennai, The Crow's Egg is the story of two young boys who live in a tin and concrete home in the slums with their mother and grandmother. Their father is in gaol and their mother is desperately looking for ways to get him out. In the meantime, the boys have been forced to go to work collecting and selling coal to help the household stay together. When a new pizza shop opens up, the boys are willing to do just about anything to get a taste of the mythical imported dish, but they soon discover that it is not only a lack of money holding them back, but also their social status.

The two boys, who go by Big Crow's Egg and Little Crow's Egg (due to their fondness for stealing crow's eggs and drinking the gooey insides) are played beautifully by J. Vignesh and V. Ramesh respectively. Ramesh, the younger of the two, is particularly delightful with his sparkling eyes and wide grin, making for an excellent dynamic with his more stoic older brother. The rest of the cast give beautiful and sincere performances, particularly Iyshwarya Rajesh as the boys' stern but kind mother.

The Crow's Egg is a well-constructed narrative, with an engaging ebb and flow. The boys' quest to taste pizza takes them on a path of discovery of just what kind of world they live in, and of how their lives differ to those more fortunate than them. Ultimately, it is a soulful exploration of the effects of materialism and the effects of an aspirational society - what tastes better, really? A three hundred rupee pizza, or a crow's egg fresh from the tree?

Perhaps some parts of the film are slightly obvious, but that's because it's a film tailored to all ages. There is also some gratuitous use of slow motion that betrays that The Crow's Egg is a first feature. In the film's third act, when the story truly comes to a head, its core message becomes slightly muddled and the film's energy drops off. Thankfully, though, with its heartfelt and funny ending it finishes on a definite high note.

The Crow's Egg is, overall, an absolutely charming movie. It offers an eye-opening glimpse at how people live in India, without resorting to manipulative gratuity and self-conscious grittiness. In its best and most honest moments it recalls the great Satyajit Ray and his sublimely poetic Apu trilogy, still the apex of Indian filmmaking. This is a sweet and memorable film that is well worth seeing. 

The Crow's Egg opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday November 19.