Directed by Saila Keriat
Suicide and depression have been favorite topics of many cineastes throughout the years. Reputed dramas such as “The Seventh Continent”, “Taste of Cherry”, “The Fire Within”, “The Virgin Suicides”, “Interiors”, “The Hours”, and “Suicide Room” deal with the problem in very different ways.
Saila Keriat’s debut feature, “The Valley” addresses the same theme but doesn’t live up to the initial expectations, failing to attain the emotional depth it had promised. Parenthood and human connections play a great deal in a story about a wealthy American Indian family, featuring Alyy Khan and Suchitra Pillai, experienced Bollywood actors, as well as the young Agneeta Thacker in the main roles.
The Kumars live in California in a beautiful house that provides them all the comfort they need. Neal (Khan), a successful high-tech businessman in Silicon Valley, pridefully claims to have built it with his hard work, however, his presence and availability are not as frequent as his wife, Roopta (Pillai), and their two daughters would desire. Both girls, Maya (Thacker) and Monica (Salma Khan), attend expensive private colleges where they are studying engineering and medicine, respectively. If the latter seems more outgoing and happy with the course of her life, the former is highly depressed and lonely since she can’t connect with the colleagues and is only trying to please her father. What she really likes is English and literature.
A curious and noticeable fact is to see the affectionate attachment between Maya and the family’s housekeeper Didi (Samina Peerzada), to the point of provoking jealousy in Roopta, an unhappy housewife who often bores her children with formal, upper-class social parties given at home. It’s all about the ‘right’ connections and less about what they really want for their future.
Shock arrives when Maya commits suicide. Nobody was expecting this to happen since they were very ‘busy’ with their own lives to see what was going on.
Neal becomes obsessive, wanting to understand what caused so much despair in his daughter. He sets off to the college campus where he talks to her evasive roommate, Laura (Hope Lauren), her best friend, Alicia (Christa B. Allen), and the boy she was interested in, Chris Williams (Jake T. Austin). Despite visibly affected, it seems that all of them know something more about the case. Or is just a weird feeling?
For brief minutes, the drama becomes a thriller, followed by the revelation of secrets when Neal comes into contact with Maya’s journal. However, the episodes are chained in a clumsy way, preventing the story to flow in a compelling manner. A few redundant scenes, especially regarding Neal’s work, aggravate this.
The film works as a lesson for some parents who, imposing pressure for success in their children, can't manage a balanced distribution of demand and availability. Besides the interior conflicts, there are blames and regrets in the mixture, but the dramatic tones feel shallow and uninspired, bringing the type of sentimentality that is more adverse than expedient.