Before The Rains
You think there’s a better film over that mountain?

Theatrical Release Date: 05/09/2008
Director: Santosh Sivan
Cast: Linus Roache, Rahul Bose, Nandita Das, Jennifer Ehle

In the tradition of it’s fraternal films in the Merchant Ivory catalog comes Santosh Sivan’s “Before the Rains”. Based on one part of an Israeli trilogy of films, Dany Verete’s The Desert Trilogy: Yellow Asphalt, the story shifts to India where an Englishman (Linus Roache) building a road to export tea and spices has an affair with his housekeeper (Nandita Das). Hard to believe this might ruffle a few feathers, huh?

Well, unsurprisingly, it does. Both of the parties are married (obviously not to each other, otherwise there’d be no conflict) and attempt to keep their love a secret. Of course, that doesn’t happen and once the cat is out of the bag, the ripples that follow serve to bring the entire village to a fever pitch – in an already turbulent time of impending Indian rebellion against British rule.

Sadly though, I couldn’t have cared less about the predicament depicted on-screen. Both Roache and Das knew what they were doing was going to destroy their lives and those of their families if found out. It wasn’t a simple slap on the wrist that would come down on them, people were going to die … after being beaten or otherwise tortured, of course. And I don’t want to hear the “you can’t control love” argument. They clearly knew that their actions would have dire consequences and they didn’t care, both of them making mistake after mistake compounding their problems until there wasn’t a way out.

On the positive side, Sivan made full use of the beautiful, lush landscape and made sure to pay his cinematographer (since it was himself). While many of the house scenes were on the drab side, the forest and water elements were richly depicted and helped keep the film from being a complete waste.

I say waste because I just can’t be too involved in a romance film where the main characters aren’t worth my sympathy. And it’s not the actors’ faults. Roache and Das do well enough with what they’re given. Jennifer Ehle plays Roache’s wife just fine and Rahul Bose does a wonderful job as Roache’s assistant/liaison.

There’s even an attempt at karmic resolution to the entire affair. I would have at least been satiated with that … but noooooo … true justice isn’t to be had. And as a result, I can’t find the will to recommend this film. Because of it’s actors and visuals, I’ll give “Before the Rains” a 2 out of 5. If you’re a hardcore Merchant Ivory lover, then this might work for you. Everyone else steer clear and find a better way to spend your time.