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Review: Mental health gets shortchanged in melodrama ‘The Valley’s’ critique of tech culture

Following the tragic suicide of their young daughter, the seemingly idyllic life of Neal Kumar (Alyy
Alyy Khan, left, and Suchitra Pillai in the movie “The Valley.”
(Wavefront Pictures)

Tackling teen suicide in a film requires a deft touch, but “The Valley” approaches the weighty topic with a heavy, sluggish hand. The well-intentioned script from first-time writer-director Saila Kariat tries for emotional honesty but feels like a soap opera, and the cast doesn’t help it advance past dour melodrama.

“The Valley” begins just after the funeral of college student Maya (Agneeta Thacker), with her tech entrepreneur father Neal (Alyy Khan), mother Roopa (Suchitra Pillai) and sister Monica (Salma Khan) in mourning, wondering what led Maya to end her life. The film rewinds to the previous year, delving into Maya’s relationships and her social and academic struggles at the university, offering clumsy flashbacks within the flashback to try to explain what happened and criticize the culture of Silicon Valley.

Despite its serious themes, Kariat’s script is more likely to evoke laughter than tears. Lacking subtlety, it reveals little insight or knowledge into human behavior and interaction. It refuses to focus on one or even a few of Maya’s problems, messily proposing nearly a dozen answers to her family’s question of “Why?” Even its postscript treats the subject with too little attention, speeding through statistics and helpline info at a pace that ensures few can read fast enough to get value out of the text.

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‘The Valley’

Rated: R, for language, and some teen drug and alcohol use

Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

Playing: Starts Friday, Laemmle Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills

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