Helen (2019) Malayalam Movie Review – Veeyen


‘Helen’ triumphantly utilizes a minimalist terror setup to set your adrenaline up and running in no time. A fine script, a terrific cast and some real impressive direction ensure that this one is a chiller, and a shiver inducing one at that.


As the icy silhouette of a young girl crouched against the bare floor of a freezer, the red blush of the blood that drips from her almost frozen nostrils set in sharp contrast with the whiteness all around becomes discernible on screen, you huddle up even further, cast an uneasy look at the air conditioning vents in the cinema hall and wonder if they have been set a bit too low.

Mathukutty Xavier’s striking directorial debut ‘Helen’ talks of a typical day in the life of Helen (Anna Ben) – nursing graduate who thinks the world of her dad (Lal), busy pursuing her IELTS classes, chasing Canada dreams, working part time in the Chicken Hub and in love with the truant Azar (Noble Babu Thomas) whom she hopes to bring on track.

Well, not a typical day perhaps, since not every one of us gets trapped in a huge freezer in the Chicken Hub for an entire night, with no way out, and with the chill steadily eating its way beyond the skin and bones. With no way out and with not a rescuer anywhere in sight, Helen has no other way but to wait it out till morning in what appears to be a death chamber, the door of which has been slammed shut from outside.

The writers Alfred Kurian Joseph, Noble Babu Thomas and Mathukutty Xavier work it out beautifully, lending ample time for the backdrop to be unmistakably established. The writing is deft, and ‘Helen’ seems expertly crafted for a film making debut, easily pushing Xavier on to the league of the most promising directors that we have seen this year.

It does require a lot of audacity to attempt a survival thriller in Malayalam, and ‘Helen’ turns out to be victorious in this regard on account of its ability to skilfully link the core of its theme to the cultural premise around it. Helen’s life and the characters that occupy the key spots in it are downright relatable, letting it move beyond the limits that a survival flick might otherwise have inflicted on it.

‘Helen’ also brings to the fore a few other characters who further add on to the structural potency of the piece. There is Sub Inspector Ratheesh Kumar (Aju Varghese) for instance, who is on the hunt for some sadistic contentment from his daily interactions with people in distress, the forever snappy Chicken Hub manager (Rony David Raj) who has a few marital issues to deal with and the janitor at the Mall (Jayaraj) who ascertains without any further doubt in the climactic sequence that smiles do matter, and how!

The major part of ‘Helen’ is set within the four confines of an icy room with the environment playing a fierce antagonist. The progression towards hell is slow but steady, and while Helen swathes herself around with the bits and pieces of cardboard, plastic wraps and duct tape that she manages to find, Xavier lets loose onto the narrative,  a lone rat that had forayed  into the room without as much as a second thought.

Simply loved Anna Ben in this film, and should admit that there is an effortless charm to her performance in it, that deserves a thundering applause. There is a resourceful performance from Noble Babu Thomas as Azar  and while Lal does a decent job as Helen’s dad, I couldn’t but help wonder for some strange reason how it would have been to have an actor like Joju George in his place! ‘Helen’ also has Aju Varghese at his best, as yet. Anend C. Chandran’s brilliant cinematography sustains the interest and the tension and the musical score by Shaan Rahman is a winner all the way.

‘Helen’ triumphantly utilizes a minimalist terror setup to set your adrenaline up and running in no time. A fine script, a terrific cast and some real impressive direction ensure that this one is a chiller, and a shiver inducing one at that.


Verdict: Good


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