Lion *** ½
Dir: Garth Davis
Starring: Dev Patel, Sunny Pawar, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Nominated for 6 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Dev Patel), and Best Supporting Actress (Nicole Kidman) and winner of the Best Supporting Actor BAFTA (Patel), Lion is based on the true story of Saroo Brierly, a poor Indian boy who was separated from his family at the age of 5, adopted by a kindly Australian couple and then, as an adult, initiated a search for his mother, brother and sister back in India.
The movie works best in its first half, chronicling Saroo’s travels and travails across India and Sunny Pawar, the acting neophyte, is a real find, expressive and winning without being precocious. Lion’s second half is less engaging as it unconvincingly attempts to create drama out of the adult Saroo’s growing obsession with his roots and the resultant isolation. However, Nicole Kidman turns in a genuinely honest performance as Saroo’s adoptive mother, trying to figure out a way to help both Saroo and her other adopted boy, the troubled Mantosh (Divian Ladwa). The movie also ends on a touching, tender and satisfying note which almost certainly will have you shedding at least a tear or two.
Cut to chase: Despite certain weaknesses Lion will move you.
Kubo And The Two Strings **** ½
Dir: Travis Knight.
Starring: (voices of) Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, Matthew McConaughey.
Laika Studios’ (Coraline, The Boxtrolls, ParaNorman) latest offering is the terrific Kubo And The Two Strings, a marvellous combination of stop-motion and CGI and infused with the spirit of Hayao Miyazaki’s genius without being beholden to the revered Japanese animator. Directed by the head of the studio, Travis Knight (the heir to the Nike fortune) the movie borrows from Japanese folklore, giving us a tale of love, loss, family, courage, a quest and magic and wonderment in the tradition of the best fairy tales. And in the same tradition it also gives us a few spooky moments.
There are plenty of laughs too – especially in the banter between our hero Kubo’s (voiced by Art Parkinson) two travelling companions, the stern Monkey (Charlize Theron), a wooden simian brought to life by Kubo’s mother’s magic to act as his guardian, and the genial but slightly addled Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), an armor-clad Samurai/insect hybrid looking to serve a new master.
Kubo gives us something new both in its storytelling and its animation and it entrances. It’s a pity then that it failed to find an audience upon its theatrical release. However, it did win this year’s BAFTA for best animated feature and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Film (losing out to Zootopia) .
Cut to chase: It’s rather wonderful.
Rating system: *Not on your life ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection