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Movie review of Joseph: The man with the scar
There is no escape from the relentless feeling of melancholy that weighs one down from the moment the Malayalam movie, Joseph begins its journey into the heart of darkness.

In that sense it is a true noir movie, unlike most thrillers which rely on over the top star performances, garish sound effects and clever editing to convey menace and suspense.  Joseph moves at its own sedate pace, much like life in the remote hill station where the story unfolds.

The music flows like a dirge that reflects the mindscape of the eponymous hero who lives alone in a house haunted by memories of those who have left and those who have been taken before their time. He is also haunted by the things he has seen in his career as a policeman including the rotting corpse of the woman he once loved and hoped to marry.  

Joju George is a revelation as the retired policeman, Joseph.  We have seen him as a bumbling cop in Action Hero Biju, but here, he is a man ravaged by life, bearing the scars that it has etched into his heart and soul, on his face. But though his eyes are clouded by cataract and dimmed by the fog of alcohol, they are still sharp enough to look deep into the soul of a person and uncover the terrible secrets lurking within. The fact that his cop's instincts are still intact despite retirement and alcohol is brought out early when he is called upon to solve the murder of an old couple. He is like a toothless lion with a few tricks still up his sleeve.

The film could have done with fewer songs which make it drag. More like a police procedural, there is little room for grandstanding and slow mo effects. The drudgery of a policeman's world, where he has to make door-to-door enquiries, verify call data records, follow thousands of leads and shadow suspects day and night, in order to unravel a crime is brought out in some detail. It is a world full of horrors too because it is not just about those who commit crimes but also about the victims, who are robbed of their dignity by violent death and the men who have to study their violated bodies for the clues they hold.

The supporting cast of Dileesh Pothan, Sudhi Koppa and Irshad does a good job. They are the friends who stand by him and give him company in his lonesome moments. Pothan, as Peter, the second husband of Stella, Joseph's ex-wife, delivers a subtle performance.

However it does seem a bit stretched that two members of the same family are picked out as targets for a similar crime. The female characters have very little to do either and it falls entirely on Joju to win our sympathy. To understand his loss, we need to know what exactly he lost. Instead of injecting songs, the director could have tried to flesh out the wife and daughter characters a little more, especially the daughter. The song with his friends and the song in the church were totally unnecessary.

Joseph is not just the story of a retired cop.  It is the story of a man seeking redemption for failing those whom he had loved - the girl he lost, the wife who left, and the child who died, which makes the ending all the more poignant.

Evil is insidious. It lives among us, in the form of the friendly neighbour who covets our wealth, the alcoholic husband who pushes his wife into suicide, or just about anyone who betrays the trust we place in them. Its touch blights all those who come into contact with it. Joseph is also a story about the power of evil to blight lives.

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