Film Reviews

The Darjeeling Limited

Fox Searchlight Film
Out Now

Yes, Wes Anderson has created another whimsical yet poignant narrative about three detached brothers taking a journey through India, hoping to find some kind of spiritual enlightenment.

The film starts with a short film, a prologue of sorts, set in a Parisian Hotel where we meet Jack, a writer who has recently fled from a relationship. Immediately we are thrown into an out-dated (read: retro chic) design and story of unspoken emotion. Jack’s ex-girlfriend has managed to find him, after a half-hearted attempt of hiding from her, and their relationship. They sleep together one last time before Jack proclaims that he could never be her friend. Cut to the actual film following a businessman chasing after a rickety train pulling out of a station in India.

The film is based around three brothers who all simultaneously seem to be suffering from mid-life crises of sorts. And decide to meet in India and in desperation have a sort of reunion, after one of the brothers is almost killed in a motorcycle accident. These are our sibling protagonists, the Whitman’s, “How did it get to this? We haven’t spoken in a year,” says the oldest, and most bossy of the brothers; Francis, who has taken the trip into his own hands, planning events and spiritual enlightenment stop offs, even bring a personal assistant with a laminator for a bit of structure and professionalism. Of course they’re not just there to rebind the gaps, they’re all also running away from their personal lives. Francis, who had been in the motorbike accident, Peter (middle brother) who is escaping from a heavily pregnant wife back home, and Jack, still heartbroken and continuing to eavesdrop on his ex’s voice messages at any possible opportunity.

Anderson uses India as he does with all his locations in his other films, its vibrant and slightly obscure but it’s never touristy and always completely appropriate. They have an unplanned adventure, a consequence of the ambiguous medicine they all seem to be tossing back. And end up kicked off the train and end up abandoned in the “real” India with their numerous travel cases. But instead of rather typically “discovering” each other, they delve deeper inside their basic personality. Then Francis springs a surprise: Their journey will end with a meeting with their mother, who for a while has been living as a nun in a mountaintop Indian convent. As soon as you get a look at her appearance, mannerisms and behaviour, you can understand more about the three brothers.

The film works as a wonderful, visually romantic story. As a massive Anderson fan, I find it hard to pick fault with much of his work. But that said, sometimes the characters seem to be a little too idealistic; although raucous and ruined, come across as worldly and wise. However the emotions the characters feel are genuine and poignant to the point of down-to-earth, despite the wonderfully far-fetched situations. But I suppose that is the charm of Anderson’s films; they are stories, quietly passionate and genuinely endearing.

Emily Paget