Oscars Countdown… #6 Lion

Lion is just the kind of story that attracts the Oscars. Five year old Saroo falls asleep on a platform and wakes up to find himself alone and accidentally boards a train that takes him thousands of miles from home to Calcutta, we see how he survives the streets of Calcutta and is eventually adopted by an Australian family. Twenty years later haunted by images of his lost family he goes looking for them.
Dev Patel who is so prominent on the films posters doesn’t appear for the first 53 minutes, hence his nomination for best supporting actor not best actor. Whilst Patel, once he makes an appearance, gives a moving performance the film largely belongs to Sunny Pawar, who compellingly plays little lost Saroo as he wanders the streets of Calcutta. This is by far the better part of the film, as you hold your breath wondering how a 5 year old who cannot speak the language can possibly survive in this dangerous city. 
The second half lulls a little, once Saroo has established he wants to find his family he drifts around unable to do so and it becomes a little dreary as you just want the film to hurry up and get to the grand reunion that is so inevitably coming.
Nicole Kidman though is extraordinary, it is her unfolding story and emotional performance that keeps you intrigued as the film slowly meanders along. 
When the ending comes it does so far quicker than I thought, I assumed there would be some wandering through India trying to find the way home, instead Saroo spots his hometown on google maps and hops on a plane straight there. The swiftness of this discovery though is forgotten during the heartwarming and tearful reunion of Saroo and his birth mother. And even more so when you see the real footage of Saroo, his birth mother and his adoptive mother together. 
Whilst the emotional climax of the film leaves you feeling warm and happy, this film is not what I expected and honestly I’m not entirely sure if that’s good or bad. 

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Oscars Countdown… # 8 Arrival

Arrival is not your typical sci fi film there is very little action, no big aliens vs humans showdown and it is infuriatingly slow paced at times. I held off watching this film for a while certain that despite the clever idea it would at some point revert to stereotype, but I was wrong. Whilst you still have the glimpses of a world in chaos and a war brewing the film prefers to focus on Amy Adams personal response. The first glimpse of the aliens and the unfolding consequences to their arrival are all seen through her reactions with a lot of lingering close ups. The tension builds so slowly until you are on the edge of your seat and then a serious twist sends you reeling and suddenly everything falls into place. (Seriously the twist is epic!)
Our protagonist is no soldier, quiet, calm, scared yet determined she takes her time to properly communicate with the aliens and form an alliance of sorts instead of merely rushing in and declaring war. And it’s a fascinating perspective. Showing us that openness, a willing to understand and above all communication is the real difference between war and peace. The tension is at the end resolved by one person reaching out and saying the right words in one 20 second phone call.

Arrival is at the end of a day a love story. It is someone choosing acceptance and friendship over war and enemies and above all it is someone saying yes to love even though they know what lies ahead. That is what makes this film so beautiful for me.