Kaathal The Core Movie Review: In The Great Indian Kitchen, director Jeo Baby explored the breakdown of an ordinary marriage in a typical patriarchal setup. In Kaathal The Core, he takes us through the disintegration of another marriage. However, this time, the conditions don't feel bitter, and we end up feeling relieved for both parties. While The Great Indian Kitchen petrified us with the realism of the protagonist's situation, Kaathal The Core moved me with the idealism that some of its characters embody and it wistfully hopes that the viewer might also immerse themselves in this idealism. Both films are winners and TGIK certain had an edge, but Kaathal The Core leaves a more overwhelming impression on me, thanks to one man - Mammootty. Kaathal – The Core Review: Mammootty and Jyotika's Film Leaves Netizens Spellbound With Its Progressive Storyline and Performances.

At the time of writing this review, I know the main plot conflict is already public knowledge, revealed even before the release date, when Kaathal The Core was submitted to IFFI 2023 - Goa, and the official synopsis came out. I wish I hadn't read that and went into this movie blindly. Alas, the perks of this job mean I couldn't be oblivious to such leaks.

So, it is known that Mammootty is playing a closeted homosexual in the film. Or that's what his wife, Omana (Jyotika, in a rare but welcome foray into Malayalam Cinema), accuses him of in her divorce petition. Mammootty plays Matthew Devassy, a family man married to Omana for 20 years with a teenage daughter Femi (Anagha Maya Ravi). Matthew shares a rather prickly relationship with his father (PS Panicker), the reason for which is revealed very late.

Otherwise, Matthew is a respected man in his town, in his church circles, and in his political party outfit, where he is chosen as their next candidate for the by-elections. So it came as a surprise to not just Matthew but also to his political peers and other townsfolk when it leaks out that Omana, who is still living with him, has filed divorce proceedings against him. She doesn't want any alimony, but the reason for the separation is what shocks the people. Omana claims he has always been in love with a man, a driving instructor named Thankan (Sudhi Kozhikode).

A Still From Kaathal The Core Trailer

Matthew hesitantly denies these accusations, but surprisingly, he never aggressively confronts her on this. Why Omana takes such a drastic step, and whether those accusations are true, is what the rest of the film is about.

Watch the Trailer of Kaathal The Core:

Kaathal The Core has a slow-paced nature when it comes to revealing its big pieces, but how beautifully does that work here! We get acquainted with the main characters, the setting they live in, and get glimpses of the dynamics they share with each other, though the director isn't in a hurry to reveal it all. So when the bomb is dropped, I was totally invested in how the film frugally depicts how the rest of the world responds to Matthew's predicament. The Great Indian Kitchen Movie Review: Nimisha Sajayan, Suraj Venjaramoodu’s Social Drama, Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Is Brilliant!

A Still From Kaathal The Core Trailer

I loved the opening scene of the movie. We see Matthew and Omana as part of Sunday mass. But while Matthew and the rest of the church attendees are in shade, only Omana has light reflecting on her. As if for the first time, she has clarity on what to do with her life, and the rest of the film is her determination to do so.

When the bombshell is dropped, Kaathal The Core doesn't go for the big haws, to my utter surprise. Matthew is conflicted and anguished, but he doesn't go blasting on his wife for putting him in such an awkward situation right when he was making inroads into politics. I was more astonished at how the people around the couple react to this development. Of course, there are some whisperings and mutterings, and a few in Matthew's party are annoyed with this development with the elections around (they slyly even use it as their attempt to show their 'inclusive' approach). Jeo Baby's sly political critique is also on display here. Even though the protagonist belongs to the Left outfit, the director takes digs at the party's paradoxical religious-minded vote appeasement at local circles that goes against its proclaimed socialist values. Also hard not to notice that one utterly disparaging comment on homosexuality comes from a man who has a red sandal-paste applied to his forehead.

A Still From Kaathal The Core Trailer

However, there is more of an acceptability towards Matthew's situation by his world, even though he himself is hesitant to accept it (a scene where a political party asks a voter to not vote for Matthew only to be shamed by him is one such example). There is a sense of idealism in how Jeo Baby (who has a non-speaking cameo in the film) allows some of his characters to behave, though at times, it does feel Quixotic. I mean, I agree there is a certain progressiveness seeping into our society, but we still live in a land where love relationships are looked down upon, and inter-caste and inter-religious marriages are still seen as a taboo. Maybe I am way too cynical unlike the makers' intentions here, but when right-wing conservatism is on the rise, not just in India but the rest of the world too, it is hard not to be a cynic. Puzhu Movie Review: Mammootty’s Fantabulous Negative Performance Anchors This Slow-Paced Psychological Drama.

A Still From Kaathal The Core Trailer

Thanks to this cynicism, I also have a little problem with Omana's decision. I understand and empathise with her plight and appreciate how her character is written through an idealistic lens (her brother even makes a dig at that), and how it is told that she is also an equal victim in society's attitude towards homosexuals. I also liked how the writers (Adarsh Sukumaran and Paulson Skaria) wove in the decriminalisation of Section 377 into her taking this decision so late in her marriage. But Omana outing her husband as a homosexual, without his approval, in what turned out to be a public arena wasn't a notion I was comfortable with. At least, Matthew was protected by his political clout and privilege; I can't say the same for his alleged lover Thankan, a man who comes from a lesser privilege and therefore faces the bigger brunt of a marital decision in which he had no say and is treated more like an onlooker. I wish at any point in the film, Omana was confronted about taking this decision without consulting those directly affected by it. I wished Thankan had gotten a more assertive voice than being relegated to a heartbroken man longing for the dust to settle.

A Still From Kaathal The Core Trailer

Still, Kaathal The Core managed to make me look beyond this misgiving thanks to some touching dramatic moments, especially in the second half. There is a focus more on courtroom drama here that allows the film to address how society suppresses sexuality, and in turn, creates a bigger problem in the process, without being too preachy. However, what takes the winning belt here is the third act that features two fantastic emotional conversations - the one where Matthew finally speaks to his father and later when he opens up to his wife. I have no qualms in admitting I was left bawling in those scenes. The song that plays after as the dust settles in on the drama is simply a beautiful icing on the cake.

A Still From Kaathal The Core Trailer

Mammootty playing a homosexual character may have surprised many, but it is not exactly a novel concept for a mainstream film with a popular star in the lead. Prithviraj Sukumaran, Jayasurya, Nivin Pauly, Roshan Mathew have played LGBTQIA+ characters in the past. Mammootty himself has dealt with LGBTQIA+ themes in his older movies, like in Ram's highly appreciated Tamil drama Peranbu, where he played a straight man who marries a transwoman by the end of the film.

A Still From Kaathal The Core Trailer

Yet, what Mammootty brings about in Kaathal The Core is nothing short of a game-changing revolution, at least for the superstars of his generation. It is certainly a bold move that could have proven divisive, but Mammootty not only took that risk but also backed it up by producing the film. The result is that Matthew Devassy is not only one of Mammootty's best characters but is also easily one of his top performances ever. Mammootty has always been a director's actor, and it felt beautiful to see him fit in within Jeo Baby's storytelling aesthetics and gracefully underplay his performance. It is simply incredible to watch this 70-year-old performer subtly portray the mental conflict and internal anguish of a man, living in a forced self-denial, and incredulous to see how he allows his silences to convey so much. And when he finally bursts open, emotions just don't pour through his words and eyes but also through our tears. Even if you manage to hold them in till then, try doing so when he tearfully bellows "Daivame!" Kannur Squad Movie Review: A Brilliant Mammootty Leads This Cop Thriller That Saves Its Best Punches For Its Third Act!

While it takes some time to adjust to actress Jomol's dubbing for her, Jyothika does good work with lip-syncing and allows her eyes to carry the bulk of her acting. She is particularly wonderful in the scene where she defends her decision to her father-in-law.

A Still From Kaathal The Core Trailer

Sudi Kozhikode is another standout performer who needs to be watched out for. PS Panicker, Anagha Maya Ravi, Muthumani, Chinnu Chandni, Joji John give wonderful performances in the supporting cast. Felt a twinge of sadness seeing the late Kalabhavan Haneef playing the role of a judge in the movie in what is one of his last onscreen appearances.

Final Thoughts

Like I wrote before, I loved the opening scene of Kaathal The Core. But even more, I loved the closing scene, of a car driving straight on a road as the skyline welcomes it with a rainbow (nice touch, there), while an election poster screams 'Historic Win.' Yes, it's a bit on the nose, but what Jeo Baby, Mammootty, Adarsh Sukumaran, and Paulson Skaria have achieved here is nothing short of a Historic Win! Kaathal The Core is not just a game-changing moment in Malayalam cinema, but it is also a sensitively portrayed drama with a fabulous Mammootty proving once again that age is no barrier for him in going beyond the barriers of conventions and excelling at it. Bring all the awards to this man!


(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Nov 24, 2023 09:10 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).