STUDIO: Lions Gate
MSRP: $27.98
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
•  Commentary with Santosh Sivan and Linus Roache
•  Theatrical trailer
•  Also from Lions Gate

The Pitch

You’ll be surprised to find that conflict arises when a gentleman from the UK tries to have his way with a certain subcontinent.

This man ain’t Hollow, but don’t think that means you’ll see him coming.

The Humans

Linus Roache. Rahul Bose. Nandita Das. Jennifer Ehle. John Standing.

The Nutshell

Henry Moores (Roache) is living the good life, as an Englishman in 1930s India. He’s getting some lovin’ from servant Sajani (Das) and some logistical help from other servant T.K. (Bose) on their plans to build a massive road through the mountains. If all goes well, this road will act as a trade route for spice and ore and make everyone rich; they just have to make sure it’s built before the monsoon Claude rains come and hit the reset button. It shouldn’t be too hard, until Moores and Sajani are discovered in the throes of activity. Until Mrs. Moores (Ehle) comes back from vacation, until T.K. gets cold feet about bringing “progress” to his home, as does the bank about financing this risky project. Until everything else that can go wrong does.

The last thing Hank Azaria ever saw. The next day, his friends wondered why neither the tan nor the “Apu” accent ever went away, but in time they came to love the new Hank.

The Lowdown

When I first set eyes on the DVD, I thought ‘this is the kind of movie that, if it was good, I would have heard about it.’ A period piece, presented by Merchant Ivory, with recognizable actors: surely it must be cheap or boring, or have some other fault that would explain why it wasn’t in many theaters or hasn’t been talked about for awards. But I was wrong. Before the Rains is not a great movie, but it is definitely a good movie, one that uses its budget and its cast well, and one that has a solid, if strangely old-fashioned, script.

Instead of taking time to look at the beautiful scenery or give us a picture of life, the story moves along swiftly. Things happen, things change. Things that I don’t want to spoil. The DVD cover art promises a sweetly bland forbidden love story between an Englishman and an Indian woman, and so does the first act of the film, but then things get interesting. Sajani loves Moores, whereas he slowly reveals that he only kinda likes her, and when his wife comes back, he’s perfectly content to say ‘well, that was nice, but let’s not get carried away.’

“They said what about me on the CHUD Podcast? I say, old chap, that nearly rivals Nunziata’s Estella Warren joke from Episode Four.”

Roache does a fine job of playing Moores as a bastard who never seems like a bastard. He breaks all kinds of rules, lies to friends and family, and uses people to keep himself out of trouble. Roache seems to know that Moores should know that he’s a dick, and he puts that sadness and doubt into his performance. However, the film as a whole is much more sympathetic to the character. In fact, you worry sometimes that it goes too far, that the movie isn’t admitting how awful the guy is.

But, as it turns out, he’s not really the protagonist, and neither is his mistress or wife. It’s T.K., Moores’ right-hand man, who carries the last half of the story, as he is constantly faced with moral dilemmas: whether to work with the British or protest their presence, whether to help Moores bury evidence, and whether to give him up once it’s found. At first it’s hard to figure out Bose’s acting here – is he playing dumb? is the character playing dumb? – but by the end he’s great.

Unless there are some gross or offensive historical liberties in the movie that I don’t know about, Before the Rains has no big flaws. It gets in there, tells a story, then gets out of the way. It’s not sappy, long, or “pretentious.” On the other hand, it’s nothing uniquely moving, either, and I can’t wholeheartedly endorse a film for just being a good yarn. If you have an interest in period films or in India, definitely check this out; if not, well, see it anyway, but there’s no need to hurry. You can go ahead and wait until after the rains, I mean.

“And this, my boy, is where King Théoden kept his mountain fortress of the Hornburg.”

The Package
There’s a feature-length commentary with Roache and director Santosh Sivan, who cover such groundbreaking topics as what filming was like that day, how much they enjoyed working with each other, and what an honor it was to finally meet John Standing. It’s not bad, and if you like the film enough to buy it, you’ll definitely like the commentary enough to hear it. The commentary is the only real feature, but that’s no big deal. The DVD has everything it needs, and the movie looks and sounds quite good.

7.3 out of 10