‘My initial idea was to ignore this film and had I have done so I wouldn’t have missed anything’
Success or Failure: M. Night Shyamalan
Praying with Anger, 1992
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: M. Night Shyamalan, Mike Muthu
Initially I wasn’t going to include Praying with Anger as part of my review of M. Night Shyamalan’s filmography (mainly due to its relative obscurity and lack of major release), but it’s technically Shyamalan’s debut feature so it deserves its place. Praying with Anger focuses on the journey of Dev (M. Night Shyamalan, Lady in the Water), an American-Indian, being forced to spend a year in India as part of an exchange programme. While there, though, his western values and behaviours often get him into trouble with bullies and teachers as they often contradict those believed by the Indian subcontinent where he resides.
Despite Shyamalan himself being American-Indian, he doesn’t paint a very welcoming or pleasant picture of India, with it often being seen as racist and violent, which adds to the journey of Dev because he must not only overcome these ways but embrace them, too, as his family hails from this area. There are some beautiful moments of the American-Indian Dev being referred to as a foreigner and not welcome in India and his genuine confusion over his constant errors, often being pointed out by his friend Sanjay (Mike Muthu), is really well done because it massively contrasts the two regions. It also has a really satisfying ending which nicely ends all the mini-storylines spread throughout the film. That being said, the preceding 90-minutes or so are quite boring.
The themes are obviously powerful and send a great message for acceptance, but it’s presented in a rather lacklustre film. The acting isn’t very strong (Shyamalan isn’t terrible as a lead but I’m glad he realised he should stick to cameos in the future), with some performances being downright terrible and the lack of retaliation from Dev is more frustrating than it should be. He’s told to obey everything and do as everyone says but he’s presented initially as a fighter, so it’s strange that he doesn’t fight the ang of bullies and perhaps take a beating for it, which forces him to accept he needs to obey their demands, rather than simply accepting it because he’s been told to. There’s also a lot of talking with Sanjay about the rules of India which become quite tiring after a while as it is a slap in the face of the show-don’t-tell rule.
My initial idea was to ignore this film and had I have done so I wouldn’t have missed anything. It’s a film with 90-minutes of lacklustre talking without many consequences despite the opportunities to have them and 10-minutes of satisfying pay-offs to some of the mini storylines throughout. There’s promise, but so few-and-far-between that it’s not surprising in hindsight to see that Shyamalan has switched his film genres.
Personal: * * Acting: * * Writing: * * Presentation: * *