Nithin Lukose’s Malayalam-language drama – via stories passed down from his grandmother – journeys us through a maze of Shakespearian love and familial feuds threatening an unending cycle of blood and violence. With family honour at stake and the mystical tales of the bloodthirsty river ready to consume each victim, Lukose brings home the language of tradition with haunting ferocity.
Framing itself to the familiar constructs of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet but with a more murderous bloodshed as its patron. Anna (Vinitha Koshy) and Johnny (Basil Paulose), scions of these opposing clans, fall in love and want to make a life together. Both tired of the century-old feud, wanting nothing but to not live in fear. Johnny spends his days ferrying the locals around the villages in his pick-up truck for money, money needed to support his creepy dying grandmother – who constantly fans the flames of hatred from her deathbed – and his younger more impressionable brother. Anna on the other hand is at the mercy of the male members of her family. Led by the blind elder of the clan and his vengeful sons, a nice husband awaits her hand in marriage over in Canada.
Before too long the murderous family feud is reignited when Johnny’s uncle Kocheppu (Jose Kizhakkan) is released from prison. Returning to the village after his incarceration, Kocheppu, full of remorse, wants nothing more than to help his family move on and enjoy life. With his return causing ripples amongst Anna’s family the River of Blood consumes yet another mutilated body in its makeshift graveyard at its bed. Ripping open old wounds, and taking the lives of those who tried to turn their back on the pact the never-ending cycle refuses to break.
Rarely presenting any on-screen violence Lukose simple hints at maiming via the swinging of a machete and a hemp sack stained with the blood of the latest victims. The bags are then hurled into the depths of the chillingly eerie river which threatens to keep hold of its dark secrets with its ominous stillness representing the overall calmness of what should be a rather gruesome tale.
From the numerous clips and audio bouts of WWE wrestling icons of The Undertaker and Kane to the walls mounted with the lost maimed family members its theme serves as a reminder of the rebirth of generational violence, begging the question can this cycle of torment ever be broken when mankind is littered with the need for revenge.