Lion

Director: Garth Davis (2017) BBFC cert: PG

This real life long distance drama covers a lot of hard miles on its struggle around the globe.

Searingly sincere and with few surprises, we follow the footsteps of Saroo, an illiterate Indian boy adopted by a wealthy white Australian couple.

Played by the endearing Sunny Pawar, the six year old inadvertently goes on an epic train journey before ending up in the claustrophobic chaos of Calcutta. There’s a touch of Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp in the sad soulfulness of the streetwise urchin.

Saroo is eventually adopted along with another boy by Nicole Kidman in a bad haircut. Suddenly it’s twenty five years later and he’s a strapping surfer dude, played by the charming presence Dev Patel.

Suffering an identity crisis at university, Saroo begins the struggle to find his birth family. Rooney Mara plays the most generic of girlfriends, forced to parachute in and out to give Saroo someone to explain himself to.

It’s a seemingly impossible task given Saroo doesn’t know his surname, the name of his home town and he has search area with a radius over twelve hundred kilometres long.

Fortunately in the intervening years some clever bod has invented google maps, which helps his quest no end. I’ve had less effective sat navs when trying to find an open garage. Too little time is spent on the detective work and the solution feels woefully under-earned.

There’s a spiritual core to the film which helps us cope with the poverty porn, the frequent suggestions of abuse and extended bouts of moping. Identity, culture and language are all touched upon but sadly not explored.

And after a sure footed sprightly start,it becomes a long slog under the weight of some heavy emotional baggage. Plus the presence of Patel reminds us another, finer film. At times it feels like we’re watching Slumdog Millionaire 2: The Backpacker Years.

Ultimately, what the film says is just because you’ve gone to Oz, there’s still no place like home.

@ChrisHunneysett

Carol

Director. Todd Haynes (2015)

There’s tremendous quality to admire in this intelligent, assured and elegant period piece.

A shame it lacks the drama the tremendous acting, design and writing promise but don’t deliver.

It’s based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith who also wrote The Talented Mr Ripley (1999).

Cate Blanchett was award nominated for that film and certainly will be again her immaculate performance here.

In the title role she’s a moneyed, married mother who begins an affair with shop girl Therese.

Rooney Mara’s quiet reserve essays a delicate flowering of awareness.

It’s her finest performance to date and hopefully it will be recognised as such by the Academy.

They take a road trip with a camera in one suitcase and a gun in another.

This leads to a showdown with Carol’s seemingly decent husband, played by the dependable Kyle Chandler.

The presence of the gun acknowledges the problem with a script which doesn’t have a lot going on once the couple consummate their relationship.

So the gun is clumsily thrown in to add a frisson of drama where none exists.

As the romance develops and what obstacles exist seem to melt away, we realise we’re witnessing a beautifully played and sumptuous soap opera.

Pan

Director: Joe Wright (2015)

Set sail to the stars with the boy who never grew up in this magical family fantasy.

Based on the tales of J.M.Barrie, it’s the action packed story of how the young orphan Peer first encounters the fantastical world of Neverland and discovers his destiny.

Die-hard fans of the book may be aghast at the liberties taken with the characters.

But there are compensations in this old fashioned adventure which is bolstered by some lovely design and beautiful animation.

Levi Miller is tremendously confident and engaging as the orphan Peter who is kidnapped from London by a flying pirate ship and whisked off to Neverland.

It’s a riotous place of broad humour, acrobatic fights, circus colours and rock songs, populated by Never-birds, crocodiles and fairies.

He’s set to work in a huge mine where he has to dig for Pixum, the powerful pixie dust.

It’s craved by the villainous pirate chief Blackbeard, performed in a lively pantomime by Hugh Jackman.

Peter escapes with the future Captain Hook, a two-handed rascal in the mould of Han Solo from Star Wars (1977).

Garrett Hedlund strives manfully in an unenviable role which requires a physical performance full of charm, humour and an edge of mystery and danger.

It’s too bad he’s not a young Harrison Ford but then again, who is?

He flirts unconvincingly with the kick ass princess Tiger Lily who’s from a multi-racial tribe of natives.

The character is described as a ‘redskin’ by Barrie and by allowing itself to be accused of whitewashing the role, the film scored a soft publicity own goal.

I’m far more concerned with Rooney Mara’s forgettable performance in a disappointingly thinly written female lead.

Her and Hedlund seem cast by committee.

Kathy Burke has fun as a devious nun and Cara Delevingne is alluring as a pod of mermaids.

Tiger Lily is mostly there to explain to Peter his part in a prophecy.

In order to fulfil it he must learn to believe in himself if he wants fulfil his destiny.

Director Joe Wright has form with making very theatrical film versions of classic books, such as in his Anna Karenina (2012).

He brings out the spectacle of the source material which was of course originally written for the stage.

Go on this awfully big adventure and you will believe in fairies.

★★★☆☆

Trash

Director: Stephen Daldry (2014)

Fresh fish are good and plastic is bad in this environmental sermon that masquerades as a thriller.

It opens with a teenage boy holding someone at gunpoint, by the time we eventually discover why it’s all turned terribly silly.

Favela-living boys from Brazil Raphael (Rickson Teves)and Gardo (Eduardo Luis) are paid a pittance to scavenge all day on the municipal rubbish dump.

No wonder the US and Europe have sent Father Juilliard (Martin Sheen) and Sister Olivia (Rooney Mara) to bring religion and education.

It’s good they’re doing something as they don’t interfere with the plot in any meaningful way.

Otherwise it’s non-stop street parties and skinny-dipping amid the picturesque poverty of the colourful favela. It even burns down in a  pretty manner.

When Raphael discovers a money-filled wallet, he and Gardo enlist sewer-dwelling Rato (Gabriel Weinstein) to help fence it.

But Rato recognises the key it contains as coming from a train station locker, so off they go to investigate.

However on the payroll of a corrupt  congressman, bad cop Frederico (Selton Mello) is searching for the wallet as it contains something incriminating.

Frederico drinks water from a plastic bottle making him not only brutally corrupt but gasp, a walking environmental disaster as well.

When he indulges in a bit of ultra-violence to classical music he does so on a creative whim – not because it tells us anything anything about his character.

There’s bags of cash, a ledger of crooked accounts, rooftop running, motorbike chases, gunplay and beatings.

There’s aggression but a lack of anger. Sister Olivia who simply shrugs her shoulders at events, even when lured to a prison under false pretences and later arrested.

It’s a shame as Mara is very good acting angry, maybe she’s despondent because the script give her so little to do.

Wretched script-writer Richard Curtis adapted this boy’s own Brazil-based adventure from Andy Mulligan’s book.

There are echoes of Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire and Millions but it’s nowhere near as coherent, compelling or dynamic.

Editor Elliot Graham tries manfully to inject pace and energy using the cinematic steroids of freeze-frames and flashbacks – but real muscle is lacking.

Failing in its attempt at a feel-good finale, the ending lasts more than long enough to spell out its sanctimonious message.

★★☆☆☆