Milwaukee Film Festival 2016: Umrika
By Andrea Thompson
The American Dream will never be short of devotees chasing its beautiful, (but for many empty) promises. In “Umrika,” its lure is powerful enough to reach across the globe to a remote Indian village that sends one of its most prominent sons off to America, or Umrika as they call it, to seek his fortune. For months they hear nothing, then letters arrive detailing his adventures and stories from his new home, with the requisite hilarious moments from the resulting culture clash. Ramakant, (Suraj Sharma of “Life of Pi”) is the little brother left behind who is seemingly destined to live in his much older brother's shadow. But as he grows up and the '70s make way for the '80s, he finds out that the truth may be more complicated and tragic than he ever dreamed. But boy, is that truth a long time coming. When “Umrika” keeps the momentum going and shows how the political meets and transforms the personal, it is a fascinating story that draws you in. And the presence of Tony Revolori, aka Zero the Lobby Boy from “The Grand Budapest Hotel” adds a much-needed sense of joy and fun. Writer-director Prashant Nair also shows a sure hand for making a movie warmly intelligent and humorous without veering into condescending territory (funny how that usually happens when people from the actual culture being discussed make the movie). But “Umrika” gets too distracted by unnecessary sidelines when it could be focusing on its intensely likable characters and investing in its own intriguing concepts.