Expectations set by the title 4 years can be misleading, for the narrative of the movie is set around the course of a day or two. Yet, in a way, it is an apt title too. In the film, director Ranjith Sankar is attempting to condense the experience of four years of engineering college life of two youngsters, into those two days — the last of their college days. It is a fascinating endeavour on paper, but it does not always pan out the way it is intended on-screen.
The story revolves around a couple who had broken up some months back. It is not much of a wonder that they indeed did. Gayathri (Priya Prakash Varrier) is a focused, career-oriented person who is clear about what she wants and has well-laid-out plans for the next few years. On the other hand, Vishal (Sarjano Khalid) is aimless, has a huge backlog of examinations to clear, and has severe anger management problems.
All of these facts emerge only over the course of these two days. It is rather a short time period, which the viewer wishes were shorter, even as the two protagonists are seen wishing that it had gone on forever. They create excuses to stay back in college, even as their friends slowly start leaving. Though the screenplay revolves only around these two for the entire time, much of it is built on the over-exploitation of college nostalgia.
4 years (Malayalam)
Director: Ranjith Sankar
Cast: Priya Prakash Varrier, Sarjano Khalid
This obsessive level of nostalgia over college life was something that was seen in the recent hit Hridayam as well. Ironically, 4 years has some scenes lampooning this. For instance, when a character says that it is going to be his last meal from college, the other replies, “Are you going to die?” Everything from the college corridors to the trees and plants is romanticised.
When one begins to ease into this last-day setting, it’s natural to expect the narrative would switch backwards to show what life has been for them on the campus, or in the end, switch forward to show where they both would end up. But, Ranjith never does so, even when there are many opportunities for him. Everything is attempted to be conveyed through their conversations, leaving us with only the mental pictures of their early days, the fun they had at the youth festival, Vishal’s constant fights at the forefront of college politics, and their eventual falling out as a result of his unmanageable temper.
This forced minimalism and the unrelenting focus on the couple, however, only leaves us with nothing much to look forward to, especially since the conflict between the couple does not have enough to keep us engaged. The two days in this movie take almost an eternity to get over, and it has nothing to do with the supposed timeless nature of their romance.
4 Years is currently running in theatres