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Film Review: Ben and Suzanne: A Reunion in Four Parts
Film Review: Ben and Suzanne: A Reunion in Four Parts

Film Review: Ben and Suzanne: A Reunion in Four Parts

An intriguing romantic relationship but also a series of issues in Ben and Suzanne: A Reunion in Four Parts

Shot in Sri Lanka, “Ben and Suzanne” is a film that unfolds on a number of levels, from a tour guide to the country to the exploration of a rather complicated relationship. It is Shaun Seneviratze’s feature debut and it was shot mostly with local non-actors.

Ben Santhanaraj travels to Sri Lanka in order to reunite with Suzanne Hopper, who works for a local NGO, after a long separation. However, although his plans were to see the country and have a good time with her, she is stuck with work, which comes up at any given time. As time passes, their relationship is being tested by both the fact and a number of other episodes, while the ego and individuality of both seems to place another set of burdens.

Allow me to start with the negative. There are two archetypes of Western people living in Asian countries, or even simply staying for a bit. The one is the ‘savior’ who probably works for a Western NGO and tries to help, considering their effort life-altering for the locals, in a most of the time rather big misconception. The second is the ‘tourist’ who just wants to have a good time inside the usual bubble tourists experience, retaining as many of the tendencies they keep in their country of living, frequently complaining about everything. These two rather annoying archetypes do not represent everyone of course, but are quite prevalent, and they are also exactly the personas of the two protagonists. Suzanne is the ‘savior’ and Ben is the ‘tourist’.

Expectedly, and considering they both consider their wants as above everything, they soon find themselves clashing, with each one, but particularly Ben actually flaunting the aforementioned to each other, in probably one of most entertaining and realistic aspects of the narrative. At the same time, though, and in a yet another annoying aspect of the movie, there is no indication why those two ever got together. They seem to have nothing in common, or ever had for that matter, maybe except from the fact that he likes to make her laugh by clowning and she is quite susceptible to it. Whether that is enough for a relationship does not sound like a question with a positive answer.

The above essentially makes the whole approach of the movie somewhat naive, particularly because it also includes an outsider’s epidermal view of the country, especially when one compares it with a similar film we watched recently, “Paradise” by Prasanna Vithanage, or any other local films for that matter.

There are, however, a number of things that do work for the film. For starters, the chemistry of the two protagonists is impressive, with Anastasia Olowin as Suzanne and Sathya Sridharan as Ben presenting the fact that they have known each other for some time and that they both have changed quite eloquently. Their rapport is quite entertaining to watch, particularly in the erotic scenes and the moments they have fun with each other. Their fights could have been handled a bit better, but overall, this aspect is one of the best of the movie.

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The same applies to the cinematography, with the 1:1 ratio giving a very appealing retro essence to the movie, and the overall capturing of the country by Molly Scotti is occasionally impressive to watch, despite the focus on realism. Joe Violette’s editing could have been a bit better in the succession of the scenes, but the overall pace is definitely fitting.

“Ben and Suzanne” has its merits, and the relationship in its center is appealing to watch. However, it frequently feels as a film that was supposed to be shot in the US, just found itself in Sri Lanka without being able to realize the difference or what to do with the fact.