MRR Review: "Not Today"

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While on vacation with friends in Hyderabad, India, Caden Welles - a privileged young man with the world at his disposal - takes an unexpected turn in life after initially refusing to help a starving man and his daughter.

MRR Review: "Not Today"

-- Rating: PG-13
Length: 118 minutes
Release date: April 12, 2013
Directed by: Jon Van Dyke
Genre: Drama

"Not Today," known by its compelling tagline "none of us are free if one of us is enslaved," is a powerful low-budget film that is quickly rising in popularity all over the world. The film is directed by Jon Van Dyke, a previously unknown director who dedicated an immeasurable amount of time and energy to this project. His compassion for his fellow human beings shines through in this film's disturbing plot, which is based on events that really happen every day in India.

The plot revolves around the young and rather obnoxious Caden Welles, who comes from an extremely wealthy family and feels like the entire world is his oyster. As just about any wealthy 20-year-old person would, Caden Welles is very irresponsible as he lives a life of luxury and enjoys the success of his father. His self-centered lifestyle continues in full force as he travels to India with his friends on a whim, looking to continue his endless party in Hyderabad, which has earned a reputation for having plenty of opportunities for a young man looking for fun in all the wrong places. However, when Caden refuses to give money to a starving man, Kiran, and his hungry little girl, Annika, his world comes crashing down around him when he cannot escape from his heavy conscience and the haunting images of the needy family. Unable to continue his luxurious lifestyle while the images of the starving man and his small daughter are burned in his memory, Caden returns to the place where he first saw them in an attempt to make things right.

Unfortunately, Caden does not end up feeding the family and leaving with a clean conscience. To his horror, he learns that Kiran was finally forced to sell his own daughter in an attempt to at least get food into her belly as well as feed himself before he succumbs to starvation. Caden, who now knows about the thriving human trafficking trade that few Americans can even comprehend, is torn between turning his back on a problem he never knew has existed and doing the right thing for once in his life. Caden finally decides to abandon his lifestyle and join Kiran on an unlikely quest to find Annika and rescue her from the horrific life that has always been her expected destiny. Finally feeling like his life has a purpose and spurned on by his friendship with Kiran and the prayers of his family at home, Caden embarks on a dangerous journey to change the life of an innocent little girl forever.

It is immediately clear that "Not Today" was lovingly produced by people who are filled with compassion for those in need, especially in countries that rarely provide opportunities for citizens who desire to escape from poverty. Friends Church Yorba Linda, a small congregation that revolves around the mission of educating India's impoverished population and ending human trafficking, worked hard on the production of "Not Today" alongside director Jon Van Dyke. Unfortunately, in spite of the love and care that went into this film, the acting and storytelling do fall short at times, and audiences who are expecting a masterpiece will likely be disappointed. Caden is so unlikable at the start of the movie that it is very difficult to sympathize with him when he begins his journey to rescue Annika, whom many moviegoers likely would have immediately helped. The fact that it is so hard to feel anything for Caden makes the movie's occasionally slow plot move even more slowly, as Caden's massive character development is more of a relief than a compelling part of the story.

In spite of the movie's downfalls, moviegoers who do not have high expectations of a movie directed by an unknown director will likely not be terribly disappointed. Viewing this movie as an educational piece set to a story with fictional characters is sure to make the movie much more enjoyable. At its core, that is just what "Not Today" is. It was not produced as a regular film meant to entertain a disconnected audience. "Not Today" is meant to show its audience a world that is often thought of as no longer existing. While "Not Today" is not a perfect film by any means, it certainly does what Friends Church Yorba Linda intended for it to do. It is important to note that "Not Today" is the proud winner of several awards, including Best Narrative Feature at the Pan Pacific Film Festival, Best Feature Narrative at the Peace on Earth Film Festival, and Best Justice Film at the Justice Film Festival.

Rating 2.5 out of 5