A young poet and his three friends head to a remote village, for the writer to draw inspiration, and the others to work towards fixing up an abandoned location. Sent to help them is a young, mentally challenged man whose innocent approach to life soon starts to grate on some members of the group. With a legend of a buried treasure at the location, the young men begin to become frantic and violent, with the aspiring poet trying to be the voice of reason.

“Upama” suffers from serious pacing issues and confusing narrative shifts that hurt the end product. In regards to the pacing, the production spends too much time focusing on the mundane actions of its subjects, particularly in the prolonged shots of people walking. Although there are many other moments that can be pointed to, this remains a persistent complaint. The way the narrative focuses heavily on certain scenes makes the bulk of the film tedious to get through.

It is difficult to critique the narrative too heavily without getting into spoilers, as many of the key moments suffer from exaggeration or baffling logical choices. Frustratingly, it is even difficult to put the film under one genre, with supernatural forces being hinted at later in the production, but not explained enough to categorize it as horror.

On a technical level, the production does show some promise, particularly in the camera work, with shots that are well framed, with a great backdrop due to great location work. Unfortunately, the camera does linger too long in certain scenes, creating more frustration with over established shots. The score is rather forgettable, although it coincided with the long exaggerated shots, unfortunately. One major hindrance that could drastically improve the production would be to replace some of the subtitles. This applies only to moments where the poet’s writings appear on screen, that act as reflective moments to the events unfolding. Unfortunately, the size and placement made it difficult to read the English text, which added to the frustrating impression of useless content.

“The Smile” does have some solid concept and showcases potential towards narrative growth. Conceptually, the movie is a solid entry, showing a keen introspective of the world, told through the two central characters, the poet and the mentally challenged Apuu. Sadly, the execution fails in almost every regard, making the production an exercise in patience.

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Hello, my name is Adam Symchuk and I am from Canada. It was during my teenage years that I became fascinated with Japanese film, in particular, exploitation and horror. I carried my fascination with the genre with me as an adult and began to grow a deeper appreciation in various genres from Japan, Korea, Thailand, and China. I hope to grow my knowledge of film across Asia and will continue to explore this through my reviews.