Little Damian (Alex Etel) is moving into his new house on a new estate with his father Ronnie (James Nesbitt) and older brother Anthony (Lewis McGibbon), but not his mother, for she has recently passed away. Although the brothers employ this sadness for their own benefit, managing to secure free sweets at the local shop for example, the death has affected them and their father more than they care to admit. But now they can enjoy a new beginning in their new home, although Damian, who has an overactive imagination that enables him to see the saints, is about to receive a shock - a lucrative shock...
Director Danny Boyle first made his mark on cinema with homegrown hit Shallow Grave which detailed the fall out (and falling out) after a large amount of cash intervenes in some friends' lives, and in a way Frank Cottrell Boyce's script for Millions was Shallow Grave for the whole family. Taking place in a fictional near future where Britain is about to give up the pound to join Europe in using the euro for its currency, it has Damian (a surprisingly non-obnoxious performance by a child actor) sitting in his cardboard box hut one day when he gets a gift.
That gift, which being a religious sort he believes has come from God Almighty Himself, is a bag stuffed with cash which drops on his hideout. Enchanted by the possibilities, he tells only his brother about it and soon they are chewing over the opportunities their newfound wealth will bring. Here's where the slightly sanctimonious theme enters into it, being that too money will corrupt you, even if you, like Damian, plan to do nothing but good with it, so it's best to give it away. In fantasy sequences (or are they?) our hero converses with saints of varying personalities and the overriding impression is that he quite fancies being a saint himself.
But to be a saint you have to perform a miracle, and the miracle Damian has in mind is as a magnanimous charity worker, so he looks around for "the poor" who he can assist, such as treating some homeless people to pizza, or giving the local Mormons a donation through their letterbox. When he puts a thousand pounds into an actual charity worker's collection bin, he is almost rumbled and his father is called to the school, but Anthony makes up a fib that they had taken the cash from the Mormons because he missed his mother. Some people will believe anything, and they get away with it, but there is one chap who is more convinced of their guilt.
This is where the thriller element familiar from Shallow Grave arises, as there's a sinister fellow (Christopher Fulford) hanging around looking for the cash. It was his gang who stole it, and as the money was going to be incinerated anyway it's supposed to be a victimless crime, but Damian and his family might end up on the receiving end of some criminal damage if they don't return it. While it's not particularly tense - despite Boyle's track record the most harrowing thing, the mother's death, has already occured before the story begins - Millions trips along blithely enough, filled with bright colours (this is supposed to be winter?) and cutesy but lightly edgy scenes and effects. Serious messages about moving on (Dorothy the charity worker (Daisy Donovan) effectively replaces the boy's mother) are not too heavy handed, and it's amusing enough even if it does get bogged down in treacly sentimentality by the end. Oddest thing? We never see Damian go to church, so where did he get his faith and religious knowledge from? Music by John Murphy.
British director, from TV, who started his movie career with two big homegrown hits: Shallow Grave and Trainspotting. His Hollywood efforts suggested he's better when based in the U.K., as both 2005's kids comedy Millions and the hit zombie shocker 28 Days Later were big improvements on his two previous features, A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach.
Alex Garland, who wrote 28 Days Later, then scripted Boyle's ambitious sci-fi epic Sunshine. Boyle next enjoyed worldwide and Oscar success with Slumdog Millionaire, the biggest hit of his career, which he followed with true life survival drama 127 Hours and tricksy thriller Trance, in between staging the 2012 London Olympics to great acclaim. Business biopic Steve Jobs was a flop, however.