For a film with so many elements seemingly at odds, The Pool is distinctly relatable. It is the work of Chris Smith, who we know best as the documentarian behind American Movie and The Yes Men. The Pool, on the other hand, is straight-up fiction. And if you notice that two of Smith's films have "American" in the title (American Job is the other one), and know that The Pool was based on a story that takes place in Iowa, you might be surprised to find that it's set in India, and spoken entirely in Hindi. (No, Smith doesn't know Hindi.) And yet, the project is almost disappointingly seamless.
The protagonist, Venkatesh (Venkatesh Chavan), is a young man of 18 who left his tiny village to make something of himself—though so far, he has only succeeded at securing a job in a hotel and selling plastic bags at the local market on the side. Venkatesh wants something more from life, but doesn't know what—but in the short term, he wants to swim in a pool. And not just any: Venkatesh is obsessed with a particularly picturesque pool in the yard of a house in the wealthy part of town, but rather than simply hop the fence, he's determined to be allowed to swim in it, which is a rather belabored metaphor, yes, but given the sketchy, laidback tenor of the film, the effect is one of almost necessary simplicity.
The course of the slowly paced The Pool follows Venkatesh's befriending of the father and daughter who own the property, yet never swim in its pool. Its subtle developments are short on action but long on scenery, and beg questions about ambition, fate, and opportunity—themes that are, apparently, as portable as Smith's camera.