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Tentigo Review: Irreverent Comedy Drama

Six people look at the camera from a rail inside a house in a shot from the film Tentigo

Ilango Ram’s Tentigo is an irreverent but well balanced comedy of errors that delivers on the more poignant moments as much as the visual gags.

A dead body with an erection is quite the opening image for a film, but that’s exactly how things kick off in Ilango Ram’s Tentigo. It’s almost equal parts comedy of errors and family drama, delicately balanced tonally in order to avoid ever becoming distasteful. As writer, director and cinematographer, Ram has a confident grasp on the film throughout, even if it does linger a little too long.

When two brothers – neither of whom are named, referred to simply as ‘Elder’ (Priyantha Sirikumara) and ‘Younger’ (Thusitha Laknath) – discover their father (Ranjith Panagoda) deceased and sporting a pretty, ahem, prominent problem, they must do whatever they can to avoid their family tragedy becoming town gossip.

The brothers’ misadventures provide moments of genuine, laugh-out-loud humour that never crosses the line into feeling crude. Efforts to tame the ‘problem’ include flattening it with a stick, taping it down, and turning the body on its side, much to the confusion of other funeral attendees. It’s a cycle of mishaps, growing in absurdity, within which Ram manages to weave the more sombre moments near seamlessly. Because while it is ostensibly a comedy, Tentigo also functions as a commentary on the intricacies and complexities of Sri Lankan family life.

The relationships between the brothers themselves, as well as their individual relationships with their late father, are complicated, but Ram does a really great job of showing the natural ease they all have with each other. The familial instinct is to band together in the face of such hardship (if you’ll forgive the unavoidable and only somewhat intentional pun), and is largely goes unspoken. The cast all do a terrific job of navigating that line between comedic performances and more dramatic fare, which helps the film remind its audience that, at its heart, it is in fact a story about a grieving family.

six people look down at the camera from above in a shot from the film Tentigo
Tentigo (Silent Frames Productions / Glasgow Film Festival)

But while the film itself is really effective in its tone and its humour, it does linger a little too long. Its third act drags slightly, with some of the antics – the schtick with the incredibly nosy neighbour (Chandani Seneviratne), in particular – becoming a little frustrating as the film slows down. Thankfully though, it doesn’t ever lose its naturalism or become too stiff (an intentional pun, that time), instead maintaining that balance even if it runs a little longer than perhaps was necessary.

Overall, Tentigo is a very admirable debut. It is genuinely funny and irreverent, but knows when to pull back to deliver on its moments of pathos. Ram feels confident as a filmmaker, delivering a witty script, slick cinematography and steady direction that retains its absurdity without resorting to d*ck jokes, and showcases moments of emotion without whiplash-inducing shifts in tone.

Tentigo was screened at the Glasgow Film Festival on 5-6 March 2024. Read our Glasgow Film Festival reviews and our list of films to watch at the 2024 Glasgow Film Festival!

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