Cast: Shyam Fernando, Anjali Patil, Wasantha Moragoda, Maheshwarie RatnamDirector: Prasanna Vithnage
Rating: ** and 1/2
Inspired by Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky's short story "A Gentle Creature", Sri Lankan director Prasanna Vithnage's "With You Without You" is a Sinhala Tamil film with English subtitles, which released here under PVR Director's Rare Banner.
Set against the political backdrop of Sri Lanka, the film is an inherent expression of life in the country. It sensitively and hauntingly mirrors the multi-cultural co-existence in the country through the story of a pawnbroker and his relationship with a young girl, who frequents his shop.
Somewhere in a rural area surrounded by tea plantations in Sri Lanka, Sarathsiri (Shyam Fernando) has set up his pawnshop and leads a passive life stoically where he earns his livelihood by lending money to the folks around and watches television for entertainment.
During the course of time he gets interested in Selvi (Anjali Patil), a young girl of marriageable age, a regular at his shop.
Through his maid Lakshmi (Maheshwarie Ratnam), Sarathsiri learns that Selvi, a Tamilian, in order to escape the uncertainty of life in the ethnic civil war stricken area of Northern Sri Lanka, has shifted to the neighbourhood to live with her two aunts.
Life is still mean to her. Her aunts for being a burden on them constantly torment her. They try marrying her off to a widowed businessman but before Selvi could consent to the marriage proposal, Sarathsiri proposed to her.
Realising that it's her only chance to avoid an unhappy future, she accepts Sarathsiri's proposal and moves into his house.
Once married, they bond over the regular nitty-gritty's of life, but strangely a suffocating feel infiltrates their relationship.
Over a period of time as Selvi gets inquisitive about her husband's past, Sarathsiri's restrained behaviour gnaws her. She sinks into a depression. This disturbs their marital equilibrium, changing their lives forever.
The tight balanced script captures the essence of the narration in a realistic manner, where both the characters with their well-etched character arc create a powerful impact.
Shyam Fernando and Anjali Patil are both excellent actors, who get under the skin of their characters.
Shyam is unnerving as Sarathsiri. He successfully portrays the life of a guilt ridden ex-army man caught between the throes of morality.
Anjali as Selvi is sultry and intense. She brings depth as a fragile soul to her performance, which is very evident in the scene that reveals her weakening state.
Made on a relatively low budget, the production value of the film is fairly good. The usage of various elements like characters, sound and camera lens is minimalist. Yet the film is visually appealing.
Overall, director Vithnage's treatment is slow, gloomy and melancholic. It is designed in the mould of World Cinema with its simple and meek story that grows on you psychologically and disturbs you for long.