Millions is a 2004 British film and a book written by Frank Cottrell Boyce. It was originally written solely as a screenplay, but Cottrell Boyce then decided to adapt it into a novel while the film was in the process of being made. The book was awarded the Carnegie Medal, and formed an integral part of the annual Liverpool Reads campaign in Cottrell Boyce's home city. The film version was directed by Danny Boyle, and stars Alexander Etel, Lewis McGibbon, and James Nesbitt.
Millions tells the story of 7-year-old Damian, whose family moves to the suburbs of Widnes after the death of his mother. Soon after the move, Damian's "hermitage" is obliterated by a bag of money flung from a passing train. Damian immediately shows the money to his brother, Anthony, and the two begin thinking of what to do with it. Anthony, the selfish one, wants the money only for himself and his entertainment.
Damian, the kind-hearted and religious of the two, had recently overheard three Latter Day Saint missionaries lecture other members of the community on building foundations of rock rather than foundations of sand, an old Christian principle which dictates that self-worth should be based on spirituality rather than worldly things like money and wealth. The lecture inspires Damian, who is particularly enamoured with the missionaries because of the name of their church; Damian is obsessed with saints, studying their biographies and even seeing them in his day-to-day activities as visions. He immediately begins looking for ways to give his share of the money to the poor; at one point he even stuffs a bundle of cash through the missionaries' letter box, having heard about their modest lifestyle and deciding that they too must be poor.
Throughout the story, Damian commits small acts of kindness like buying birds from pet stores and setting them free and taking beggars to Pizza Hut, while Anthony bribes other kids at school into being his transportation and bodyguards, and looks into investing the money in real estate.
The story takes place within a week of The Bank of England's (fictional) change from the pound (£) to the Euro (€); an assembly is held at Damian's school to inform the children about the change, as well as to educate the children about helping the poor. Realising that the money, which is in pounds, will be no good after a few days, Damian decides that the best thing to do would be to give it all to the poor before the conversion. Upon deciding this, he drops £1000 into the donation can at the assembly, for which he and Anthony get in trouble.
After the donation, Anthony's friend informs them that a train carrying bills which were to be destroyed after the conversion had been robbed, and that the money had been dispersed by throwing it off of the train at various locations throughout the country to be collected by the robbers. The boys logically conclude that their money was stolen, and Damian, who thought the money was from God, feels terrible.
Around this time, a mysterious man comes snooping around the train tracks and asks Damian if he has any money. Damian thinks that the man is a beggar and tells him he has 'loads of money'. However, Anthony finds out and comes back to give the man a jar full of coins to cover Damian's tracks.
The robber eventually finds out where Damian lives and ransacks his house to find the money. Damian had informed his father about the money just before they came home to their destroyed house. Damian's father, who had resolved to give the money back, decided that if the robbers were going to steal his family's Christmas, then he would steal the robbers' money. The family, as well as the father's new girlfriend, go on a massive shopping spree on Christmas Eve.
That night, after they are asleep, their house is bombarded by beggars and charities begging for contributions, and seeing the confusion that results, Damian runs off to the train tracks to burn the money, deciding that it was doing more harm than good. While he is burning the money, he is visited by his dead mother, who tells him not to worry about her. This is not out of the ordinary in the scope of the story; Damian is visited by numerous dead saints throughout the story, a phenomenon never explained as either hallucinatory or genuine and used instead as a light-hearted device used to show Damian's purity. Damian's mother also tells him that he was her miracle, which is significant because in Catholicism, performing a miracle is a requirement for becoming a saint.
In the final scene we see Damian's dream of the family flying a rocket ship to Africa and helping develop water wells, which earlier in the movie is shown to be the most crucial and cheapest way to drastically improve the quality of life for many African communities.
|Alex Etel||Damian Cunningham|
|Lewis McGibbon||Anthony Cunningham|
|James Nesbitt||Ronnie Cunningham|
|Christopher Fulford||The "Poor Man"|
|Pearce Quigley||Community Policeman|
|Alun Armstrong||Saint Peter|
|Enzo Cilenti||Saint Francis of Assisi|
|Nasser Memarzia||Saint Joseph|
|Kathryn Pogson||Saint Clare|
|Harry Kirkham||Saint Nicholas|
The film received positive reviews, earning an "88% Fresh" rating at RottenTomatoes.com, a review aggregate site.
Roger Ebert awarded it a rating of four out of four stars and declared it "one of the best films of the year." He went on to write, "Although Millions uses special effects and materializing saints, it's a film about real ideas, real issues and real kids. It's not sanitized brainless eye candy. Like all great family movies, it plays equally well for adults -- maybe better, since we know how unusual it is." It was on his Top 10 movies of 2005 placing at number 10.
Leonard Maltin praised the film upon its DVD release, saying "Millions is a winning and unpredictable fable from England that will charm viewers both young and old.
Christian publications weighed in on the film, many adding stock to its religious message.
Catholic News Service's Harry Forbes wrote, "Boyle's offbeat tale -- with a clever script by Frank Cottrell Boyce -- features good performances all around, especially by the remarkable Etel, who displays just the right innocence and religious fervor in delightful vignettes with the saints. The script dramatizes the themes of money and its complexities and the need for societal philanthropy without being heavy-handed, making this ideal entertainment for older adolescents and up."
Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P. (AmericanCatholic.org) commented, "Millions engages, inspires and is just quirky enough to be charming." She added, "Damien’s familiarity with the saints and his recitation of their biographies is accurate and very funny."
However, although praising the film overall for its positive depiction of the role the Christian faith can play in a young boy's life, there were details some felt marred its religious underpinning. As Harry Forbes wrote, "The film contains a couple of mildly crude expressions, some intense episodes of menace, a momentary sexual situation, religious stereotyping, and a brief scene where the brothers look, with boyish curiosity, at a web site for women's bras on a computer." As such, he explains, "the USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents."
Johnathan Wooten of Christian Spotlight on Entertainment downplayed the significance, saying, "Those concerned about objectionable content will not find much to offend here though. There is very little violence (a short robbery scene, a very brief moment of a child in peril). Sexual content includes a glimpse of an unmarried couple in bed together as well as pre-pubescent boy viewing an internet lingerie ad. When played out the latter scene actually has a strange wholesomeness to it considering his other viewing options. The only profanity is some mild British slang.
The film premiered at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival on September 14, 2004.
2005 Humanitas Prize
2006 Saturn Awards
ArtsAndFaith.com ranked Millions 42nd in its list of "Spiritually Significant Films".
Cottrell Boyce's daughter Gabriella plays a small part in the film, as an angel during the nativity scene.