The Pool


Leaving Milwaukee to tell an indigenous tale of life on India’s west coast, director Chris Smith inevitably brings an outsider’s eye. Instead of a collection of souvenir-tchotchke exotic vistas, The Pool is an album of observed human minutiae: of kids hustling rupees by reselling plastic bags, and the touching curiosity that passes between the subcontinent’s young men and women. The exposition occurs incidentally, slipped into a bustling schedule of repetitive chores. The protagonists are two overemployed country boys, teenage Venkatesh and 11-year-old Jhangir (played by local, non-professional actors), transplanted to the provincial capital to earn a living. Bits of “business” anchor a succession of task-oriented scenes (beds turned down, water from the well, street food gobbled on the fly); this heightened consciousness of objects and obligations ballasts the drama-light, class-conscious fable with tactile life. Venkatesh spends his rare off-hours shimmying up a tree to contemplate the water of a posh house’s swimming pool—and the girl beside it—with inchoate longing; it’s his Gatsby green light. He gets behind the walls working for the sullen patriarch (Nana Patekar), never more expressive than when halving a green coconut, or spinning the child’s top that itself practically gives a supporting performance.

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