Adoptee Tracks Down Birth-Mom In Bittersweet Biopic
Saroo (Dev Patel) had the misfortune of being born into poverty in India’s Khandwa district. He lived there with his single mom, Kamla (Priyanka Bose), along with his big brother, Guddu (Abhishek Bharate), and younger sister, Shekila (Khushi Solanki).
His illiterate mother was reduced to carrying rocks for a living, and she could barely afford to keep a roof over their heads. So, when Guddu found a night job hauling bales of hay, Saroo leapt at the chance to contribute, too, even though he was obviously a little small.
And he promptly fell asleep after the long ride to the worksite sitting on his brother’s bike’s handlebars. “It’s my fault,” Guddu lamented, before leaving Saroo alone to spend the night on a train station bench.
Trouble is, when Guddu failed to return by daybreak, the frantic five-year-old inadvertently stowed away aboard a freight train headed to Bengal, a port-of-call 1,600 miles east. Upon arriving, Saroo couldn’t get any help from strangers, between his not speaking the language and his mispronouncing the name of his hometown, “Ganestalay.”
Consequently, he ended up struggling to survive on the streets until he landed in a local orphanage. Since Saroo didn’t know his own last name or where he was from, he was ultimately shipped off to Melbourne to meet Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John Brierley (David Wenham), an Australian couple eager to adopt him.
For the next quarter-century, he enjoyed an idyllic life, whether playing cricket, swimming in a cove off the ocean, or dating Lucy (Rooney Mara), a lovely Aussie lassie. All was well until the fateful evening a childhood memory was triggered during a dinner of Indian food.
Suddenly curious about his roots, Saroo was subsequently encouraged by Lucy to use Google Earth to find the spot on the planet that he hailed from. Once he recognized a few familiar places from his formative years, all that was left to do was to hop back on a plane and reunite with his long-lost family.
Adapted from Saroo Brierley’s autobiography, A Long Way Home, Lion is a heartbreaking biopic that definitely packs an emotional punch, thanks to powerful performances by Sunny Pawar and Dev Patel as the young and adult Saroo, respectively. The supporting cast features equally-evocative turns by Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman as the women who played pivotal roles in the protagonist’s life Down Under.
A bittersweet variation on the “I was lost, but now I’m found” theme of the parable of the Prodigal Son.
Excellent (4 stars)
In English, Hindi and Bengali with subtitles
Running time: 118 minutes
Rated R for disturbing violence
Portuguese Priests Venture To Japan To Search For Missionary Mentor In Faith-Based Docudrama
Portuguese traders first landed in Japan in 1543, followed soon thereafter by Francis Xavier and other Jesuits. So many locals started converting to Christianity that, less than a decade later, the emperor issued an edict banning Catholicism and ordering the expulsion of all missionaries.
Violators were forced to either renounce the religion or face crucifixion, which resulted in many of the faithful’s going underground to avoid persecution. Consequently, when a cleric disappeared, it was often difficult to discern whether the missing person had been martyred or was merely in hiding.
This was the case with Father Cristovao Ferreira (Liam Neeson) who had been spreading the gospel around Japan for close to a quarter-century before he suddenly vanished without a trace after sending an ominous last letter to a friend. The ensuing silence prompted a couple of his protégés, Fathers Garrpe (Adam Driver) and Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield), to mount a desperate search for their mentor, despite the fact that discovery of their identities might mean instant death.
In 1633, the perilous trek began, and that ill-advised expedition is the subject of Silence, a faith-based docudrama directed and co-written by Martin Scorcese. The movie represents a bit of a departure for the legendary Oscar winner whose name is most closely associated with gory gangster flicks like Goodfellas, The Departed and Mean Streets.
Based on Shusaku Endo’s 1996 novel of the same name, the film was a labor of love which took Scorcese almost three decades to bring to the big screen. The legendary filmmaker ostensibly identifies with the picture’s protagonists questioning whether God even exists.
Clocking in at a patience-testing 160+ minutes, the deliberately-paced production could easily have shaved another half-hour off the final cut and still delivered the same emotional impact. Blessed with a trio of inspired lead performances, Silence is nevertheless apt to find an enthusiastic audience among Born Again Bible thumpers.
A thought-provoking, historical drama chronicling the ultimate test of faith.
Very Good (3 stars)
In English and Japanese with subtitles
Running time: 161 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening January 20, 2017
20th Century Women (R for sexuality, nudity, profanity and brief drug use) Tale of female empowerment, set in Santa Barbara during the summer of ’79, revolving around the explorations of love and freedom on the part of a landlady (Annette Bening), one of her tenants (Greta Gerwig), and her teenage son’s (Lucas Jade Zumann) BFF (Elle Fanning). With Billy Crudup, Alia Shawkat and Alison Elliott.
The Founder (PG-13 for brief profanity) Michael Keaton impersonates Ray Kroc in this biopic about the enterprising businessman who purchased an innovative burger joint from the McDonalds brothers (Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch) and franchised it into a fast food empire. Support cast includes Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson and Linda Cardellini.
The Resurrection Of Gavin Stone (PG for mature themes) Faith-based feature revolving around a washed-up, Hollywood child star (Brett Dalton) who pretends to be a Christian to land the role of Jesus in a mega-church’s annual Passion Play production only to end up actually finding faith in God. With Neil Flynn, D.B. Sweeney and Anjelah Johnson-Reyes.
Split (PG-13 for violence, profanity, disturbing behavior and mature themes) Harrowing horror flick, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, about three teenage girls (Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula and Anya Taylor-Joy) kidnapped by a maniac (James McAvoy) with 24 personalities. Supporting cast includes Kim Director, Brad William Henke and Betty Buckley.
xXx: Return Of Xander Cage (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity and pervasive violence) Third installment in the high-octane franchise finds the extreme sports athlete-turned-spy (Vin Diesel) coming out of exile to lead a team of fellow thrill-seekers on a mission to disarm a diabolical madman (Donnie Yen) wielding a devastating weapon of mass destruction. With Samuel L. Jackson, Toni Collette and Tony Jaa.
Detour (R for nudity, sexuality, graphic violence, drug use and pervasive profanity) Revenge thriller revolving around a naive law student (Tye Sheridan) who hires a hitman (Emory Cohen) to kill the scheming stepfather (Stephen Moyer) responsible for the car accident that left his mother in a coma. With Bel Powley, John Lynch and Gbenga Akinnagbe.
My Father Die (Unrated) Patricide saga about a deaf mute (Joe Anderson) who waits a couple of decades for his father’s (Gary Stretch) parole in order to avenge his brother’s murder. Cast includes John Schneider, Gabe White and Kevin Gage.
Paris 05:59: Theo & Hugo (Unrated) Homoerotic drama about two gay strangers (Geoffrey Couet and Francois Nambot) who have unprotected sex after meeting in a Paris night club, only to have one admit that he’s HIV+. With Mario Fanfani, Bastien Gabriel and Miguel Ferreira. (In French with subtitles)
The Red Turtle (PG for peril and mature themes) Dialogue-free animated fantasy chronicling the life of a castaway stuck on a deserted tropical island populated with birds, turtles and crabs.
Starless Dreams (Unrated) Criminal justice documentary featuring interviews with teenage girls imprisoned in Iran for crimes ranging from drug dealing and addiction to burglary and murder. (In Persian with subtitles)
Strike A Pose (Unrated) Voguing documentary reuniting the surviving members of the all-male dance troupe who backed Madonna on her 1990 Truth or Dare tour.
They Call Us Monsters (Unrated) Rush to judgment documentary rethinking the convictions of three juveniles tried as adults and given long stretches behind bars for murder and other violent crimes.
Trespass Against Us (R for pervasive profanity, disturbing behavior and brief graphic nudity) Crime thriller, set in Great Britain, chronicling the efforts of the son (Michael Fassbender) of a mob boss (Brendan Gleeson) to find a legitimate line of work. With Rory Kinnear, Lyndsey Marshal and Sean Harris.