“The Valley” is a triumphant debut for writer, producer, and director Saila Kariat. The film has taken Best Feature Film at the 2018 Portland Film Festival, the 2017 Long Island International Film Festival, the 2017 Out of the Can Film Festival, the 2017 International Film Maker Festival of World Cinema Berlin, and the 2017 DC South Asian Film Festival, along with a host of wins in other categories. Quite a pedigree, already! It’s well-deserved praise for such a wonderful screenplay and overall film.
“The Valley” peers into the lives of an immigrant family, living in the high-prestige, fast-paced world of Silicon Valley. When daughter Maya (Agneeta Thacker) commits suicide while away at university, her father and family patriarch, Neal (Alyy Khan), seeks answers while the rest of the family confronts this tragedy and what it means to see their idyllic family image shattered.
What a beautiful piece. “The Valley” is incredibly well put together and elegantly tackles a host of complicated issues and themes, without ever seeming overwrought. The film is incredibly grounded and approaches the subject matter with a heavy dose of realism and such simplicity. These sorts of tragedies do not need to be “sold”, they speak for themselves. This is reflected best in the writing of Saila Kariat and is carried well by the performances of many of the actors.
A particular standout performance is with Suchitra Pillai, in the role of Roopa. She broke my heart from the very start. Pillai breathed a life into the role that went well beyond a mourning mother. She was a complicated woman with insecurities and desires and an uncertainty that drove her to make impulsive decisions. It was the meatiest role in the entire script, I’m convinced, and Pillai was the perfect casting choice. Rightfully so, she’s received recognition for the moving performance at the 2017 Long Island Film Festival and the 2017 Milan International Filmmaker Festival.
The pressures of “perfection”. Loss. Not just loss of a loved one but a loss of identity.
This is the foundation that “The Valley” is built off of. The film creates a sad backdrop of artificial happiness. The trappings of prestige, wealth, and accomplishment. But, like anything that is cheaply made, it is typically hollow and does not last. Each of the characters navigates this idea in very different ways (again, I will heap the highest praise on Pillai’s Roopa) and it’s a compelling social commentary.
The film tackles head-on grief and the mystery of depression when suicide strikes. It calls into question the concept of the “ideal family”. “The Valley” is an identity narrative in the best possible way and the film was truly a joy to watch. I will certainly be going out to Austin to support the film during its limited theatrical run.
On a more technical note, something that “The Valley” does very well is pacing. We are shown the devastating aftermath but are given a very slow reveal of the events leading up to the tragedy and the slow unraveling of a family structure that follows. Nothing is rushed. Nothing is harped on. It unfolds slowly and solemnly, as it should.
I can offer “The Valley” the highest recommendation and congratulate it on a job well done.
The film will enjoy a one-week theatrical run in 10 markets (including Austin, Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles) beginning on June 8. Visit https://www.thevalleyfilm.com/ for more information on the movie and screenings.
Featured image credit: Wavefront Productions
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. Bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.