VISITING SEATTLE recently, Millions director Danny Boyle spoke about placing his story both within childhood's limitations and an English society that's rapidly expanding. Before Bill Clinton or Tony Blair, he explains, there was the English suburban poet John Betjeman (1906–1984): "He's the guy who invented the expression 'the third way.' He said there were two pictures of England. There was the idealized country village and the bleak industrial landscape." But replacing them in the rising, all-powerful middle, the new suburbs are defined more by shopping and consumer preferences than class, Boyle notes. "They are a silent voice until an election. And that's what's generating the economy and keeping the cycle going of consumerism. That's what we've all become. "I was very keen not to portray that in a sneery way," continues Boyle, a child of the suburbs himself. "It's very much aspirational: the working class moving up to these suburban estates. When I was that age, my dad moved us from a traditional terraced house in Manchester to a much nicer house. And it was a move like the father in this [movie]—an attempt to increase horizons for kids. The vast majority of Britons live in those kind of estates. And they're very much American-influenced." In Millions, of course, the two boys aren't fully aware of their father's financial sacrifice to make the jump to the suburbs and fill their house with toys. For Boyle, Anthony half understands the "venal" corrupting power of money. "The older brother has a sense of its potential—because he's been stained already by adult preoccupations." Not so Damian and the saintly figures of his childish imagination. "Everybody keeps banging onto him about things that are real, but he doesn't really understand the difference." So Damian's response to the windfall of money is anything but worldly or materialistic, says Boyle. "He sees it in a very simple way: 'We should give it away.' It's very difficult to say that [now] without seeming moralistic and preachy. But when you were back then, it was so simple. That's why it's a film looking back at childhood and appreciating that moment before you step through that adult door. It's meant to be an affectionate film; that was the whole intention throughout . . . [to] not rely on cynicism. And a lot of entertainment today depends on that reflex cynicism that we have. It's there, latently, in what the older brother says and does." In this way, Boyle concludes, Damian's naturally charitable instincts speak to an earlier stage of childhood and, perhaps, an older, more inclusive England. "It's certainly there—that idea of faith that you take, to believe in the goodness in people . . . and by making that step, it will reconfirm itself and re-create itself."
ReviewMillions makes charming use of a child's universal perspective. By Brian Miller MORE