There are some films I review where the words of criticism or praise flow freely and are obvious and easy to put to the page. Others are a bit more challenging. I can feel conflicted and torn for a variety of reasons on a project and often it is tough to articulate both the good and and where the balance shifted from fresh to rotten (or smile/frown worthy on my system). Such is the case with the new debut film from chef Vikas Khanna called The Last Color. Even as I am writing I am unsure whether the strengths are enough to give it a recommendation.
The Last Color tells the story of a little Indian girl named Chhoti (Aqsa Siddique) who makes money putting on tightrope walking performances in the city of Vrindavan along the Ganges River. One day on the run from the police she meets an elderly widow named Noor (Neena Gupta in a lovely performance). When the film focuses on this unlikely friendship it works quite well (I’m a sucker for a story of an unlikely friendship).
I also thought the cinematography was really good at creating atmosphere and tone. Khanna really immerses us in the world of India in all its colors and textures. This is especially true at the end when the widows finally celebrate the Holi where they splash colored powder on each other which was previously forbidden.
The problem with The Last Color is it takes on too much. It should have stuck to the central relationship of Chhoti and Noor but it tries to tackle transgender rights, rape, elderly abuse, child abuse, corrupt police, religion and much more. Sometimes it was confusing who characters even were and I kept wishing we could get back to the cute little girl and old lady. That was the relationship I cared about.
Unfortunately being so schizophrenic made the movie a little dull and not as compelling as it should have been. It certainly felt much longer than its trim 90 minutes, so that’s never a good sign.
Still I think the good in The Last Color outweighs the problems. It’s not perfect but the core relationship really works and it is a beautiful look at modern-day India. If you get to see it let me know what you think.
6 out of 10