What’s unseen can be sometimes more haunting than the opposite. In Mahesh Narayanan’s CU Soon, the first ‘Screenlife’ (computer screen-based) experiment from Malayalam, some information is withheld from us, which helps accentuate the tension until its last moments. It’s an experiment, sure, but it’s still dramatic storytelling. This is a mystery involving flawed people whose desperation draws them to trouble. Fahadh Faasil plays Kevin, an IT expert with work-related problems and an annoying girlfriend. He is the detective of this story and the coolest character in it. When his cousin’s girlfriend, Anumol Sebastian (Darshana Rajendran), goes missing he is brought in to ‘investigate’, which he does by sitting in his chair for a major portion of the film.
CU Soon is constructed in such a way that I didn’t get up from my chair until I was done with it. It would be unwise to get distracted with a film like this, as there is a lot of information up on the screen. I mean, it’s only 98 minutes. Since this is a film that narrates its events through video chats, emails, Messenger, and WhatsApp interfaces, I expect viewers to be less inclined to check their phone screen every once in a while because the film itself looks like one of their own phone/computer screens.
I don’t think anyone should have difficulty orienting themselves to this convention-breaking format which has been tried, successfully that too, by international filmmakers recently. Those who have not been acquainted with it yet should find it to be a novel experience. Whatever minor concerns I had initially about following a Malayalam film made in this format was soon put to rest after the first 10 minutes. One can tell Mahesh has done his research well. This is on par with anything made abroad.
The film is driven by its characters, and after a point, the form doesn’t really matter. Although there is not much space for character development, the film does a decent job of getting us sufficiently acquainted with these people. We want to keep watching because they either have a little bit of us in them or are similar to those we have interacted with before. CU Soon starts with a quick scan of Jimmy’s (Roshan Mathew) Tinder bio. He immediately finds a match, who happens to be Anumol.
Like any young man who thinks he has struck gold as soon as a woman finds time to respond to him, Jimmy doesn’t take long before deciding that she is the one. He just wants to marry Anumol as soon as possible without even doing a thorough background check. That takes place only after he proposes to her. And who does his mother entrust that job to? Kevin. When she disappears one day without warning, problems begin.
And although the minor details of Kevin’s personal life — the conflict with his bosses, his carefree lifestyle, and his irritated girlfriend — are not so important, they are welcome distractions and offer a brief respite from his cousin’s issues. They allow some space for humour and a fair amount of f-words. Kevin is basically the audience surrogate. It’s through him that we track each bit of information as he hops from one website to another to another. He even manages to intrude an UAE-based police station’s website. And in the film’s most haunting scene, we go through the same emotions as he does, and it feels like a group therapy of sorts.
CU Soon is an immersive experience like no other. This is a neatly written and executed film elevated to a great degree by the right cast and the right music composer. Gopi Sundar’s atmosphere background score lends a great sense of urgency. Unlike in a conventional film, where frame sizes and camera movements can be occasionally used to dictate the emotions, CU Soon benefits from the anxiety-inducing performances of the actors, especially Darshana Rajendran around whom the whole film revolves. I believe this film will finally bring a talented actor like her the much-needed recognition. This film should get a lot of people, especially filmmakers, talking.
Film: CU Soon
Director: Mahesh Narayanan
Cast: Fahadh Faasil, Roshan Mathew, Darshana Rajendran, Saiju Kurup
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video