On Sal Mal Lane tells the story of the children (and adults, but in the background) of a small street in Columbo, the capital of Sri Lanka, in the years before the Sri Lankan civil war. The families are carefully staged to represent the various ethnicities of Sri Lanka, and all the other details carefully arranged for maximum exposure to the riots to come. The children’s dialogs, feelings, and interactions are artfully captured and feel fresh and realistic. Alas, the political complications are told in a plodding and heavily didactic manner that clash with the personal stories. A waste of a tender story.