Newton is India’s official entry for the category of Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards. Considering the other foreign films I have seen this year (which is, admittedly, not many), I would still be surprised if Newton is nominated. It is a barely-average movie about a subject which is not tackled in film nearly enough, if at all. The plot concerns the efforts of one man (Newton) to make sure that fair and decent elections are being held in a remote area of India, where a total of seventy-six people are expected to vote. That may not sound exciting, but Newton does much more with the subject than one may think. Firstly, when there is tension, it is palpable, and believable, but these moments are simply too few and far between.
The film takes much of the dramatic wind from its sails by opting for a more comedic tone, which if anything positive can come from that in my mind, it is the addition of perhaps my favorite character film in the film, a man named Loknath. He is an older Hindi gentleman, and whenever he decides to make a joke, it hits. His comedy is the only character’s whose jokes never come at inappropriate times. Much of the time, the characters on screen were making light-hearted date of a situation which actually seemed quite sad to me. It is in this exact area where the film has a major problem with tone, and in so doing, also has a problem with its writing and directing.
The acting is all above-average as well, including the title character and his surrounding cohorts, including two other men and a woman local to the area in which the election booth is set up. Speaking of the election, this is where most of the film takes place, and is certainly the place where the film struggles again with what to do concerning its very intriguing premise. The film treads over the same narrative ground time after time, and when something different and dramatically exciting finally decides to happen, it’s immediate effect is fleeting.
To date, India has only produced three films which have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and if Newton is any indication, 2018 will surely not see the country gaining a fourth to that list. Only if you are aching for a departure from traditional Bollywood cinema would I recommend this film. Otherwise, it is fairly average in just about every way.