Friday, 14 October 2016

LFF 2016 REVIEW - LION (GARTH DAVIS)


As a distant memory conjures up only a fleeting image in one's mind, so too do the opening credits of Lion scurry past before fading away, as the film itself seems destined to. Early and often, emphasis is placed upon emphasis alone, an attempt at hammering home the potent dramatic tenor of this incredible true story, with little attention toward developing that which might make the viewer share in its characters' emotional turmoil. Empty stylistic gestures gently adorn Lion, cooking up the occasional memorable image, but otherwise of little actual impact. Trauma is co-opted under the strictures of convention for a commercialized fantasy, and one can only wonder what effect the film might have had under the guidance of more sensitive hands. Luke Davies' screenplay prioritizes reverence to factual truth over emotional truth, and Garth Davis conspires in sacrificing the potential for genuine affective heft in favour of excessive adherence to narrative credibility, yet with deviations in the direction of cliche throughout. Should I just stop kicking this film while I've already got it down? I think so, because there remains a lot to like about Lion. Even under questionable creative direction, the power of such an astonishing true story told with kindness gives the film undeniable purpose, and gives the cast a wealth of strong material with which to work. Nicole Kidman and Sunny Pawar are excellent, and Dev Patel delves deep into his role in order to rise above his film, handling a highly difficult task with apparent ease. Hollow actors' showcases have never been my thing, but Lion gets by on at least not being the worst.