PG-13: I can get behind this. No commentary necessary.
DIRECTOR: Garth Davis
Do you know how many people hyped this up for me? All of them! All of the people hyped this up for me. How can I go into a movie objective when everyone lost their minds over this movie? Answer: I can't. I really wanted to love it and I really wanted to hate it. There was a conflict for my very soul based on how much I would like it. I now discover that I'm both a good person and a bad person simultaneously. I bet the filmmakers weren't aiming for that. You know, the final judgment of my eternal soul? Anyway, the movie's pretty good. Not great, but very good.
Oh, you want more? Fine. Lion falls into that weird category of film that I kind of get icky about. Perhaps this makes me sound super progressive or liberal or just an idiot, but this is another one of those movies where a well-off white family saves an underprivileged non-white person from his own people. I'm looking at you, The Help and The Blind Side. I don't know. It feels a little bit like this is a way to assuage guilt. Yes, I know it is a true story, as are the other ones. But the audience for this film plays a part in its intent. The producers know who is going to spend money on this movie and, golly, are we going to placate them! I will say that Lion is a less culpable compared to the other films I mentioned, but every time I see that trope, I can't help but roll my eyes. It taints the film for me.
But the movie flies when it comes to understanding its aesthetics and characters. So let's put the political rant on the side and actually analyze the film. Perhaps it is my stupid brain connecting Dev Patel to Slumdog Millionaire, but I really got the vibe that this movie had the look of a Danny Boyle movie. The camera captures both the paradoxical identity of India. It is simultaneously the most beautiful place in the world and the most terrifying. Perhaps that is what makes India so intriguing to me is that it seems to be surreal to my Western ideology. It is a bizarre alternate world and Garth Davis understands that. The movie's opening is the same shot as the trailer and it establishes the look of the movie extremely quickly. Few movies really allow a setting to influence a tone so quickly and so completely as Lion. The use of simplicity and the desperation to return home to this place of beauty is palpable. It is odd that when I was searching for images that I kept getting results with the wrong aspect ratio. That's such a crime because the cinematic quality to this movie partially defines it. There's a shot of Saroo running through the quarry that melts me over and over again. Well, mainly because they show that shot over and over, but it is effective! Maybe that's why the Australia section of the film lacks the artistry that India presented. Sorry, Australia, but the only really jaw dropping shot in Australia was on top of the mountain. Like, every shot in India absolutely crushes my soul. He climbs through garbage at one point and all I could think was "Yes. This." That's not a healthy attitude,but that has to do with Davis's eye for India.
Dev Patel is great. He does a solid job and I feel like I'm neglecting by not gushing about his performance. But in my mind, this has to be a competition because I'm me. That kid? That kid. Guys. That kid. Sunny Pawar. He is something. Sure, he's got the kid thing going for him, but that level of vulnerability is crushing. Again, this is my dad sense coming into play and I acknowledge that is the only reason I have a functioning soul. My kids have made me fearful for children in peril. But Sunny Pawar portrays the kid with just the right amount of understanding of what is happening. The scene in the train (The movie should have been called The Train) is one of true terror. Dev Patel didn't have as much to work with, so I guess this whole paragraph is unfair. Patel's character arc involves alienating the people around him and that is a slow burn. He doesn't have the high highs and the low lows which Pawar has to deal with in every scene. So maybe it isn't supposed to be a competition, but I do find the scenes with Pawar far more engaging. There is a bit of padding that also comes with Patel's section of film. Watching a guy being mean to those he loves because he's busy Google Mapsing things isn't the most riveting footage, but that is mercifully very short.
The best thing that I can really say about this movie is that is about the relationships. A research movie is a hard sell, but looking at how a man looks for identity in a world that seems larger than life is weirdly compelling. I don't know if it ever really is the perfect film that everyone at Villa has been telling me about, but it is very good. I can see why it didn't win Best Picture, but there is a cinematography credit that should have seen the light of day.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.