Every few years, a coming of age drama emerges which, if not entirely character driven, possesses the right amount of charm and tenderness to win over many hearts. What distinguishes June genre-wise is not just its charm quotient, but the layered treatment of its female character, taking audience first through the insecure plane of her teenage years and then through the turbulent waters of adulthood.
Much to my surprise the film didn’t obsessively go about exploring teenage angst to the point of a drag. Nor did it fixate on documenting the incredible vulnerability of being a teenager. What the film does do is make great use of the writer’s unique knack for remembering all the intimate details of the middle-class Malayalee adolescent life that may be so close to home for some grownups. As a result, you get some playful but life-affirming throwbacks to the days when you were young. The writers of the film really excel at communicating the feelings of the young characters, and building awe-inspiring connection with its wonderful cast.
June (Rajisha Vijayan) brims with teenage exuberance, and nervously conceals her newfound yearning for male attention and affirmation in a way unseen in Malayalam movies. She goes wobbly at the knees over the newly admitted cute boy in Plus 1 class. The first half of the film follows June’s relationship with the boy and its implications on her identity as she comes to grip with fragility of adolescence. Since Deshadanakili Karayarilla, I have not seen a Malayalam movie that depicts female adolescent sexuality and its accompanying hormonal anxiety better than June. Alright, that may come across as a far-fetched statement to many in large part because June has none of the complex themes of ‘Dheshadanakkili Karayarilla’ at heart. But it’s fair to say that the film at the very least surpasses its counterparts in its ambition to depict the female adolescence in all its glorious awkwardness. And the writers unpack all the teenage quirks and cultural signposts from your days as a teenager with an eye for the evocative detail.
June hones in on a common place adolescent crisis from the titular character’s standpoint: How the romances blossoming in the classrooms often flounder once the hormonal impulses give away to ever-evolving realities of life. In keeping with conventions, you learn along the way about broken dreams, heart-breaks and so on. The film works best when it draws on creative writing to break the stereotypes and tropes associated with the traditional coming-of age-drama (if that’s a thing), but its wacky originality takes a hit every time it yields to the temptations of pop sentimentality.
A case in point was the scene revolving the heartbreak warfare which appeared unforgivably cheesy and rang hollow. It was not so much the predictability as the repetitive tone of the scenes that tested my patience. On top of it, some of these sequences were garnished with mawkish songs to the point of exasperation. They seemed to surface every now and then to either advance the plot details, or remind me that I was watching a commercial Malayalam movie. It reached its crescendo many a time, clearly unaware when to tone it down or completely do away with it. For me personally, the songs with the exception of BGM struck jarring notes in an otherwise entertaining movie that could have also benefited from being a tad bit shorter in length.
The screenplay carries a rhythmic flow and kept me engaged through the first half with its mostly original characterization of idiosyncrasies in the lives of characters. Having had June’s bubbly but one-dimensional character fully fleshed out by the end of first half, the film then tried to incorporate a host of unformed plot elements at the expense of its specificity. When juxtaposed to the amount of time it spent capturing the details of June’s adolescent years, the second half and the treatment of character’s evolution as an adult left a lot to be desired. I felt the script grew increasingly conscious of its efforts to reduce her story of adulthood to one of heart break from past. Some of the stuff in the film works wonderfully well, but stuff that does not, makes June at times a forgettable fare. But overall, June is an unpretentious coming of age drama that achieves its desired end, owing to the surprisingly good writing and promising display of individual brilliance from the young cast.