Cast: Shyam Fernando, Anjali Patil, Wasantha Moragoda, Maheshwari Ratnam
Director: Prasanna Vithanage
The long-drawn out ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka is the backdrop of this tale of an unlikely couple, ‘With You, Without You’. Middle-aged pawnshop owner Sarathsiri ( Fernando) is drawn to the young Selvi ( Patil) during a transaction. Marriage follows, as does a brief interlude of getting to know each other. An old friend’s ( Moragoda) unexpected visit reveals secrets buried in the past, and out tumble old wounds.
Award-winning director Prasanna Vithanage does a good job with sketching his characters with economy. What’s even nicer is the way dialogues are kept to a minimum. Silence plays a large part in underlining the atmosphere, and Vithanage shows us just how effective it can be. Selvi’s eyes do the talking as she blooms and withers; Sarathsiri’s dourness, which colours their initial relationship, is even more effective. So is the quiet that descends upon them when the cracks begin showing : Selvi is a Tamil war victim ; Sarathsiri is a former Sri Lankan army soldier.
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There are some eloquent moments that point to the differences between the newly-weds, which is not just about age : he watches WWF bouts, volume cranked up; she learns to make him happy, prancing about the dining table, with a little bit of help from an elderly cook ( Ratnam).
F ernando underplays well; Patil is more on the surface. But the trouble lies in another direction. The man and the woman are not given enough to play with : it’s their brutal histories which are driving them apart, but we don’t see as much of it as we need to . For an audience not well versed in Sri Lankan history, there isn’t too much information about the conflict, and without enough context, the impact lessens.
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