The story of Kiran and Delilah and their impermissible relationship begins with the fluttering ascension of a butterfly and the slow descent of a leaf. The two young girls meet just after Kiran has arrived in Kerala. They take to each other instantly. Cutting forward many years the movie spends the majority of its time building tension as the two girls hesitate towards a sexual awakening.
Staring with the simple prick of a thorn to pierce Delilah’s ear, the film hits its symbolic stride. A symbolic act of deflowering quickly transforms a plutonic relationship into one of bashful flirting. As their affection for one another turns to passion Kiran and Delilah’s troubles unfurl tenfold when their scandalous relationship is exposed. Their dreams of romance are shattered by the cruel intolerance of both their families and their culture. More interestingly, their lives are affected by their divergent responses. Each girl chooses a different path, but both paths leading to despair.
The time-tested storyline of outlawed romance brought to demise by social boundaries serves the first time film director Ligy Pullappally well. It’s Romeo and Juliet with a pinch of Cyrano de Bergerac in India, with lesbian lovers. It’s nothing new, but nothing too tiresome. It is a classic tale waiting like a mannequin asking to be dressed by Pullappally. Using the charm and magic of the Pullappally’s fertile native land she decorates her film with a fairy tale touch that mimics the young girls’ idyllic notions of love; idyllic, but not ignorant. Kiran is not oblivious to the social constraints placed upon her love for another woman. Her reading of a particularly important poetry lesson expresses her knowledge of the “abject loneliness of being in love.” Sadly, this mature handling of love does not carry over to the film itself.
Originally a lawyer from Chicago, Pullappally says she was inspired to make this film after receiving an e-mail about the suicide of college-aged lesbian from her home of Kerala. Pullappally’s decision to return home and take up filmmaking is advantageous and allowed her the opportunity to address women and social issues in her homeland. Address them she does, but in an exaggerated manner. If Ligy Pullappally errors as a first time director then she faults on the side of over-punctuating her film with symbolism. Everything in The Journey reads like a signpost. Objects and dialog carry too much significance. With every item serving as a symbol or sign Pullappally’s story (or case) grows didactic. Most trying of all is a glass bangle, given from one girl to the other, only to be shattered by a disapproving parent. This one symbol is too strong for the film, but it should stand as a symbol for future filmmakers. Films should be delicate. Running overt symbolism through them is as dangerous as letting a bull loose in a china shop. Things will break. Pullappally has not learned this gentle touch, just yet, but The Journey shows great promise and ris