A particularly reliable source once said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." When he said this, he was referring to children like Damian.
Damian is the young hero of Millions, and you've never encountered a hero quite like him. Unlike the Bart Simpsons and Malcolms in the middle of most family entertainment, Damian is not a self-interested troublemaker. He's not defiant toward authority. Instead, he's brave, imaginative, charming, unpredictable, and utterly virtuous. He's also painfully naïve, and that's why, in his quest to deliver an unexpected fortune to the needy, he's in a world of danger.
The Unexpected Fortune has been the premise of quite a few comedies—most of them awful. But Millions comes from the hyperactive imagination of genre-leaping director Danny Boyle, and it's wise, meaningful, laugh-out-loud funny, and relentlessly inventive. In fact, it's 2005's first fiction film to deserve the word "fantastic." It's not just a brilliant family film—it's a brilliant film. Given the proper promotion, its contagiously high spirits could turn it into an Amelie-sized international hit. But Millions probably doesn't have what it takes (i.e., sex and violence) to be an opening-weekend blockbuster in America, so it's more likely to build momentum over time, as viewers come back from the theaters to tell their friends about it, wearing ridiculous grins on their faces.
More than any other film, Millions recalls Mike Newell's sorely underrated adventure film Into the West. In that film, two irresistible Irish boys discovered an enchanted horse that carried them through a period of mourning after the loss of their mother. In Millions, two boys who've also lost their mother, 8-year-old Damian (Alex Etel) and his 10-year-old brother Anthony (Lewis McGibbon), share an altogether different secret—one that's much easier to hide than a horse, but much harder to manage, and it ends up dividing them.
Boyle keeps us immersed for most of the movie in a world of visual splendor, reacquainting us with the energy and possibility of pre-teen adventures, only occasionally reminding us of darker realities like the nearby nuclear power plant. We see Damian and Anthony bicycling ecstatically through a vibrant field of yellow flowers, exhilarated as they explore the territory of a new housing development that will give them and their father (James Nesbitt) a whole new start—just the guys. Lying on the lot for their new house, they stare skyward and imagine their future, which appears above them beam by beam, tile by tile, materializing out of thin air in a dazzling flourish.
But when a suitcase stuffed with cash comes tumbling into Damian's lap—literally—things change for better and for worse. Damian decides that the money was sent by God, and thus should be used to help the poor, while Anthony, already embittered by the encroaching realities of adulthood, frets about the 40 percent tax rate applied to sudden fortunes, and decides to use the money selfishly and covertly.