Attention Please: Can Movies Be Compelling Enough To Forgo Closure?

There are many things to admire about Jithin Issac Thomas’s Attention Please. The two-hour-long movie takes place in just three shooting locations, all in or above an apartment. There are just six characters on screen, and the camera never moves away from them. Without the help of flashbacks or reenactments, the entire story is propelled forward by just dialogues and superbly crafted direction.

So while Vishnu Govindan is rightly being lauded for a superb lead role as Hari, the struggling screenwriter, and the script itself does a brilliant job of transporting us to a bachelors’ hangout spot with realistic dialogues and excellent pacing, there’s one thing that warrants more attention.

How the movie ends.

Attention Please: Can Movies Be Compelling Enough To Forgo Closure?

Earlier this year, many viewers – even some PinkLungi readers – were annoyed by how the movie Salute concluded. Without expressly stating the climax, suffice to say, the reason for their annoyance was perhaps because the movie broke an unspoken covenant between creator and audience.

Salute was an extremely well-made whodunnit, one that included procedural nuances and clever pacing to string the audience along. For many people, whodunnits have an essential framework. The protagonist finds out who committed the crime. This is the promise that is made to audience members when they begin watching the movie. Sure, it’s not set in stone, which is why some loved how Salute subverted expectations. However, the Dulquer Salmaan starrer is an example of what happens when audiences do not get what they were (apparently) promised.

Attention Please: Can Movies Be Compelling Enough To Forgo Closure?

Unlike the crime thriller, Attention Please does not fit into any straightforward narrative. It doesn’t depend on identifiable tropes such as the yearning lovers or the defeated hero seeking revenge against the system.

To be clear, this is a great merit of the movie. For most of its runtime, you won’t know how the movie is going to resolve itself. A movie like Sethurama Iyer CBI will attract audiences because they know it’s an investigative thriller where Mammootty’s character unmasks the villain. However, that also means audiences know how the movie will end. They know the plot beats – which is why no one is really stunned when the “killer” is caught with 40 minutes left to go.

Attention Please does not have an identifiable story structure, which might make it tougher to gain built-in audiences, but on the flip side, they get to take willing viewers on any type of ride they choose, plot beats be damned.

So by the time the movie’s protagonist, Hari, has finished narrating the latest of his stories to his friends seated around him on the rooftop, we don’t clearly know what genre, what story structure or what resolution we are in for. It’s thrilling.

Also Read: Underrated Malayalam Thrillers That Will Blow Your Mind

But then the movie ends with what could be argued is one of the most unfair resolutions ever. One that’s just slightly better than the terribly cliched ending, “…and then he woke up and realized it was all just a dream.”

Why do many of us criticize that “it was just a dream” ending? Because it’s a cheap and easy way to close a story without doing the work required to resolve challenges. Imagine how you’d feel if you saw Fahadh Faasil struggle through a landslide for 30 minutes, only to almost give up and then open his eyes to realize it was all just a dream.

You’d feel cheated, and that’s because you invested yourself in the story. You expected an earned resolution.

Attention Please: Can Movies Be Compelling Enough To Forgo Closure?

What makes Attention Please’s ending more egregious is the tantalizing clues the movie seems to casually drop as the story progresses, tacitly allowing us to hypothesize connections and deeper meaning behind the things that we’re observing.

For instance, one of the stories that Hari narrates – and this isn’t much of a spoiler, since the movie doesn’t do anything with it – has a character who bears the same name as the female lover of one of the roommates. We get to see the connection when the lover’s name flashes on the friend’s phone halfway through the story.

Sure, it could be just a coincidence that the devilish woman in the horror story has the same name as the lover. In fact, it seems to be just that because much later in the movie Hari expressly states that he never knew the friend had a lover.

Also Read: The ’70s and ’80s Malayalam Crime Thrillers Watch List

Attention Please: Can Movies Be Compelling Enough To Forgo Closure?

As many critics have mentioned, the movie is definitely engrossing and makes an excellent commentary about things such as the critique of cinema as well as caste prejudices. But after crafting a psychological thriller through a series of disturbing but fascinating stories that may or may not have a connecting theme, after hinting at deeper layers of meaning, after heightening the tension through shocking violence, the movie pulls a Deus Ex Machina (“a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem in a story is suddenly and abruptly resolved by an unexpected and unlikely occurrence.”)

Also Read: Deus Ex Machina in Malayalam Cinema 

For some, the ending tarnished what was otherwise a fantastic movie. But then again, if the whole movie was leading up to that ending, how much merit does it deserve?

You can watch Attention Please on Netflix.

Musthafa Azeez
Indian born and raised in Qatar and currently making plans to be buried in Canada. Voracious reader, avid cinephile, self-published author of a crime novel and a freelance journalist.

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