Friday, February 17, 2017

Longing for mother, longing for daughter

Lion, the feature film directorial debut of Australian Garth Davis, has been nominated for six Academy Awards. This seems a little much and I will argue that it’s because of the emotional impact of the film. I felt that too. I’m not one who easily tears up yet the tears were quite spontaneous at Lion’s end. This really is a very humane heartfelt story, based on true events. It’s about a destitute child in India who, one day, out with his brother, loses his way and finds himself eventually on the streets of Calcutta. He’s rounded-up and put in an orphanage, later adopted by a good-hearted Australian couple (David Wenham and Nicole Kidman). As an adult Saroo (Dev Patel) seeks to return to India and find his mother but can’t remember where he came from. The movie from here puts a tormented Saroo, who now feels more Australian than Indian, on a quest to seek “closure” by finding his family. The film’s direction is good, the scenes of Saroo’s poverty-stricken childhood amidst the detritus and streets of his rural Indian home are well paced. And Saroo as a child (Sunny Pawar) and his brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) are well played. This is a film that pulls at your heartstrings not just for the characters but for any kids in these circumstances, and the film invites you to join the cause of vanquishing such conditions.

Meanwhile, Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar’s latest, Julieta, based on three of Canadian writer Alice Munro’s stories, features Emma Suárez in the lead role as a bereft mother whose daughter Antia (played at different stages of life by Blanca Parés (older) and Priscilla Delgado (younger)) has run away. The movie traces Julieta from a young woman (played by Adriana Ugarte) and her growing estrangement from her rebellious daughter. This is a movie that keeps circling in on itself. There is an early scene where Julieta blames herself for a fellow train passenger’s death, and where she also blames herself for the death at sea of her lover and Antia’s dad, Xoan, a fisherman. In fact, Julieta keeps blaming herself, in a downward spiral, even for her daughter’s separation. The acting is all-around good. It’s the story I found incomplete. I didn’t understand how these disparate events added up to such profound mother-daughter strife and mother guilt. I’ll conclude this is because of an underdeveloped script or the inadequate merging of Munro’s three stories. 

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