'Raspberry Magic" is a sweet little film that without adornment in style or storytelling evokes the nature of family drama and family love.
The family portrayed is Indian-American, and if anyone needs proof of the universality of relationships, it's here. Monica (Lily Javaherpour) is a tender-hearted and smart middle schooler vying for a slot in the science fair, and going head to head with jerk Zach, who has a robot. He scoffs at Monica's experiment because, he says, it's about emotion rather than hard science. He's right, but he doesn't know the half of it.
At home, there's trouble. Monica's dad Manoj (Ravi Kappor) and mom Nandini (Meera Simhan) are arguing; she's lost faith in him. Manoj is always trying to design a hit computer game, and it's not going well. Money is tight. Things get worse when he loses his job. Nandini, a freelance food writer working on a book, has her own dose of bad luck. The woes have made the couple turn on each other.
Monica remembers a time when the family happily picked raspberries near her home. But then the raspberry bushes inexplicably died. So her experiment is to stimulate the growth of raspberry plants using human touch. And for Monica, if the experiment works, her family will also mend.
Javaherpour is at the center of the film, and the young actress holds her own. She's not one of those young actors with an otherworldly maturity, but rather a young actress who is able to convey the melancholy, clarity and innocence of youth. Some of the nicest scenes are with her friend Sarah (Bella Thorne), who has a troubled home life too, albeit of a different stripe. She plays well too with school groundsman Henry (James Morrison, Bill Buchanan on "24"), a man who, seeing her tenderness, encourages her experiment without knowing her story.
This is a family film in its content and its realistic portrayal of a family and its ups and downs. It resonates in these days when economic issues can shake stability. The message of "Raspberry Magic" about the power of love may be simplistic, but it portrays the bittersweet truth too.
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