A thing of simple beauty and humble character, The Pool represents a continental shift for both the tale behind it and the filmmaker who brings it to the screen.

A thing of simple beauty and humble character, The Pool represents a continental shift for both the tale behind it and the filmmaker who brings it to the screen.

Starting with a short story set in Iowa by frequent collaborator and co-screenwriter Randy Russell, Chris Smith, who made his name with the cult doc American Movie, transplants everything from the Midwest to the outlying city of Panjim, Goa, in India and uses non-professional actors. It's a remarkably smooth, enjoyable move.

Venkatesh (Venkatesh Chavan) is 18, illiterate and scraping by, working as a hotel boy and selling plastic bags on the street with his younger best friend Jhangir (Jhangir Badshah). Venkatesh dreams of being a successful businessman, but for now, he'd settle for a swim in the beautiful backyard pool never used by its wealthy owner (Nana Patekar) and his rebellious teenage daughter Ayesha (Ayesha Mohan).

As the young man sets to ingratiating himself to both of them, inviting Ayesha to join him and Jhangir for chai and trips around the city, Smith opts for light, humanistic neorealism rather than the trumped-up drama of conventional moviemaking.

"The Pool"

Opens Friday at Landmark's Gateway Theater

Grade: B+

The funny, universal narrative is made of really nice moments and small surprises. Ultimately, the payoff is a reminder of human nature at its best.