MOVIE REVIEW: Lion (2017)

Lion is a reminder of what storytelling is all about: capturing a man’s soul, and letting the audience experience his journey first-hand, as narrated in Garth Davis’ film about loss, hope and survival.

In a nutshell, Lion isn’t necessarily a monumental achievement in terms of cinematic technicalities, but what this film has is a genuine and heartfelt purpose that not all celebrated artsy films have. Lion has emotional depth as deep as the ocean; moving, like its waves; it’ll sway you, but it won’t drown you. The tide of this film’s journey will take you someplace else, making it an experience rather than just another movie to watch. That is more than enough for a film to stand tall.

Director Garth Davis’ biggest achievement is perhaps giving the film a soul as the actors give it a heart. Also, an honorable mention to its sublime cinematography for a visually stunning picture — alluring yet gritty, colorful yet dark — a manifestation of a lost child’s journey towards finding his home: eventful, oftentimes dangerous, but ultimately hopeful.

Remember those days when simple, clean, thoughtful narratives like Forrest Gump (Zemeckis, 1994) are well-renowned? They fully rely on iconic characters and inspiring storylines about a journey of a person — more so a character study of a man’s heart and soul, tackling every emptiness and every joy. Lion gives such nostalgia to that era of filmmaking that contemporary cinema is often prejudiced of. It is a reminder that the most important element of cinema as art is how it affects and transcends emotions across the screen. Lion does just that without the clichés of a conventional melodrama.

This is Nicole Kidman’s best since her role as grieving Becca in Rabbit Hole (2016). Kidman’s performance is universal; she epitomizes maternal instinct and unconditional love that radiates even with such limited screentime. Dev Patel’s performance as adult Saroo is the core of this film. You will root and hope for him, until you find yourself clinging to his search for life. Again, another universal performance that isn’t difficult to sympathize with.

On a side note: Dev Patel has bagged (deservingly so) Best Supporting Actor nominations, including a BAFTA win. There’s one problem: he is not a supporting character. He is the Lion of this film.

Another note: some parts of the film, particularly its weaker second half, do come across as a very lengthy (but very good) Google Earth Ad. Despite playing a major part of the film’s premise, the whole Google concept could’ve been done a lot smoother without making it a total product placement commercial. Perhaps, it might’ve worked if Google Earth wasn’t endorsed or talked about every 5 minutes or so.

Overall, despite its flaws, Lion proves that a film’s genuine purpose and intentions could go a long way, and that sometimes, it is about the soul more than anything else.

You must see this movie.

4 out of 5 stars

Now showing in the Philippines exclusively at Robinsons Movieworld, Lion is distributed by Viva International Pictures.

Matt Dillon, on the trail of bank-robbing seniors in ‘Going in Style’

Oscar-nominated actor Matt Dillon (Crash, There’s Something About Mary) stars as an FBI Agent on the case of the elderly bank robbers in New Line Cinema’s a fun and fast-paced comedy Going in Style.

In the film, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin team up as lifelong buddies Willie, Joe and Albert, who decide to buck retirement and step off the straight-and-narrow for the first time in their lives when their pension fund becomes a corporate casualty. Desperate to pay the bills and come through for their loved ones, the three risk it all by embarking on a daring bid to knock off the very bank that absconded with their money.

The inevitable wrench in the works comes in the form of smug FBI agent Hamer (Dillon), whom director Zach Braff thought “would legitimately feel like an FBI agent but also be a good foil for these guys, and be funny, and Matt was perfect,” he states.
Assigned to the first bank robbery, in which Joe (Caine) was a bystander, Hamer is still trying to get to the bottom of that when, surprisingly, the bank gets hit a second time.
“Hamer wants to win; he’s that guy who has to be right, says Dillon. “In his initial meeting with Joe, who’s just a witness to the first bank robbery and hasn’t even done anything criminal yet, Hamer feels that Joe’s a little condescending, telling him how he should do his job, and suggesting that maybe he should watch more Law & Order. Hamer finds it a bit amusing but, of course, just on that line of being insulting.”
Hamer’s not dumb, either. He’s a good investigator for the most part, and he has a feeling these three coots are up to something, though he can’t quite figure it out. But he’s certainly not going to give up trying.

Now showing across the Philippines, Going in Style is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

Dakota Fanning turns revolutionary in crime-drama ‘American Pastoral’

Hailed as one of the finest actors of their generations, Ewan McGregor and Dakota Fanning star in an affecting story of a family in the midst of a post-war era in “American Pastoral.”

McGregor directs and stars in “American Pastoral” that looks at the life of the legendary high-school athlete Seymour “the Swede” Levov (McGregor) who marries an alluring Miss New Jersey, Dawn (Jennifer Connelly) ad inherits his father’s multi-million dollar glove factory. Starting a life of civic and domestic bliss, raising his beloved daughter Merry (Fanning) in a big country house in the serene, upscale neighborhood of Old Rimrock, New Jersey. By all appearances, the Swede is a pillar of his community, a paragon of the “greatest generation” – admired as a self-reliant businessman, charitable boss and devoted family man, and gifted with an unerring belief in all the promises of the American Dream.

In the 1960s—amid the unrest fueled by the unpopular Vietnam War—an angry, and increasingly radical, 16 year-old Merry becomes the lead suspect in an astonishing act of deadly violence in the Levov’s halcyon rural town, upending her father and his vision of the world. Determined to come to grips with what has happened to his loved ones, the Swede goes on a quest not only to find Merry – now on the run as a fugitive from justice – but to restore the Levov family and his own heart.

Dakota Fanning is at the central and plays the pivotal role of the teen-aged and adult Merry Levov in the movie, who detonates her family’s bucolic life when she becomes a wanted terrorist while still just an adolescent. An actor since the age of 6, Fanning’s work has been widely recognized in films spanning from blockbusters such as “The Twilight Saga” and “War of the Worlds” to dramatic roles in “The Secret Lives of Bees” and “I Am Sam.”

Fanning was drawn to the layered story of American Pastoral along with the many facets within Merry, who swings through a pendulum of philosophies and emotions. “One of the things that appealed most to me is the fact that I get to portray a character at different stages of her life and that’s rare,” says Fanning. “I play Merry from 16 years old until 43, and having the chance to explore who she is at each different stage of her life is something that really attracted me.”

As for what Merry comes to feel about her father as they grow apart, Fanning reflects: “I believe Merry does have true love for her father and that really never goes away even throughout her lifestyle changes and violent actions and all the things that change who she is to him. The one thing that never did change was that love.”

An Ayala Malls Cinemas exclusive, “American Pastoral” is now showing at Glorietta 4 and Trinoma cinemas.