Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Year 9, Day 115 - 4/25/17 - Movie #2,609

BEFORE: "Carol" was something of a linking dead-end for me, but then a few months ago, I did a little skimming around on IMDB and found out that Rooney Mara was also in this film, and it happened to be in the pile of Academy screeners that my boss had received, so I asked to borrow it.  It provides a neat link to tomorrow's film, which kicks off a string of FIVE Hugh Jackman movies.  Which was only a three-film chain at the time, but two more Jackman films have come into my possession since that point.  So I hate to cheat and rely on an Academy screener, but that's the trick that's keeping my chain going these days.  When I return this one to the pile, I'll allow myself to borrow another.

Yeah, I know that the Academy screeners are for the express use of the registered voters - and you know how much I hate to not follow the rules.  But I've got all of the pay channels at home, I will have access to this film when it airs on one of them, and I'll probably record it at that time - but I need the link now, I can't wait until then.  So I don't think this counts as a movie sin, since I had no plans to see this film in the theater anyway, and I'm not copying it or selling it, I'm just watching it so I can recommend it to other people, who might then buy it.  So, really, I'm helping the film's business by watching the screener for free.

THE PLOT: A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta and survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia.  25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.

AFTER: I meant to write something yesterday in the "Carol" review about the selfishness of love, but I forgot - basically, I wanted to point out that we think about romantic love as a selfless act, which it certainly can be, but I think more often there's a selfishness involved.  Some people project this image of "Oh, I'm with this person to make their life better," but is that really what happens?  Isn't there usually an underlying follow-up of, "and my life will be better, too, if I can stay with this person."  I guess the best ideal is really a 50/50 sort of thing, because with that type of equality then a relationship has some staying power - a person who's truly selfless in their relationship, all giving and no taking, would probably be perceived as a doormat by other people, who would then wonder why he or she stays in that relationship.

Family relationships tend to work the same way, I think, because (with the exception of parent-infant relationships) if there's only an emotional connection one way, then eventually that situation's going to collapse, either the parent will start to wonder why they bother, or the child will start wondering when they can move away from this relationship that's not benefitting them at all.  Of course, I'm generalizing, people have endured all kinds of family relationships that are out of balance.

And this ties in to the situation in "Lion", where a young man wants to tell his adoptive parents that he is starting to remember his childhood, and the mother he left behind, but he can't find the way to tell them, because he fears it would hurt his adoptive mother's feelings.  Meanwhile his girlfriend is finding him more and more unapproachable once he realizes that a part of his life is missing, that he's not whole.  That's the sort of thing that's going to eat away at someone until they find a way to resolve it.

This story presents a linear narrative, more or less - starting with Saroo as a 5-year old, being looked after by his older brother, Geddu, for most of the day.  And then a particular set of unlikely circumstances cause them to be separated, and Sheru finds himself many miles from home, with no idea how to get back, or whom to trust in a big city.  You can't say this doesn't happen, because thousands of kids do go missing each year - and I guess you have to figure that of all those kids who probably meet untimely ends or fates that we can't even imagine, once in a while there's going to be one that not only manages to survive, but (eventually) is able to remember his past and find his way back to his family.

But there was an opportunity here, that was lost because of the simple trap of wanting to tell the story in order, as it happened.  As we see Saroo start to piece together his past, and he has visions of his mother and brother and the life he left behind, we the audience are familiar with those images (because we've seen them before) and he is not (because he forgot).  How much more powerful could the story have been if it had started with him as a 25-year-old, having lived with his adopted family in Australia for 20 years, and he suddenly sees something that reminds him of being a boy?  Then we could have gone on the journey of remembering with him, we could have gotten a better sense of how it feels to piece together fragments of memory to solve the puzzle.  But instead we knew the answers long before he did, and then it feels like just a matter of time for him to catch up with us.

I know, I'm always the one saying that film stories need to be more linear, and less flashback-y.  But this one ended up using a lot of flashbacks anyway, so if you're going to go that route, you might as well put the audience on the "clean slate" track that the character is on, so we all arrive at the solution at the same time.

I sort of had a problem with the casting of Dev Patel - I mean, there aren't many actors of Indian descent that Hollywood would cast, but he looked nothing like the actor who played Saroo as a young boy.  When I see a character at age 5 and then later at 25, I've got to believe that the young one would turn into the older one, and since certain facial features aren't going to change, such as the size of the character's nose in relation to the rest of the face, then if the two actors are too dissimilar, it's just not going to work.  Maybe they should have looked a bit harder for a 5-year-old that looked like a young Dev Patel, you can't just pick the best acting kid in that situation.

I still think this is a powerful piece of filmmaking, but I'm left wondering if a different approach could have really made it stand out more.   I'm also wondering if technology is being used to help cut down on the number of missing children in the world - yeah, it looks like there are many different kinds of tracking devices available to parents now, but they all seem to be wearable devices, which could fall off or be removed.  Aren't there injectable tracking devices for kids like the ones that pet-owners use to find runaway cats and dogs?

Also starring Dev Patel (last seen in "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"), Nicole Kidman (last seen in "The Invasion"), David Wenham (last seen in "300: Rise of an Empire"), Sunny Pawar, Divian Ladwa, Abhiskek Bharate, Priyanka Bose, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Deepti Naval, Pallavi Sharda, Sachin Joab, Arka Das, Emilie Cocquerel, with a cameo from the real Saroo Brierley.

RATING: 6 out of 10 lumps of coal

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