Lion, for which Dev Patel has been nominated for best supporting actor in just about every award ceremony offering an award this season, is an instant classic. A true story; Saroo, a five year old from a slum in 1980s India, winds up on a train to the other side of the country by accident, and loses himself from his brother and his home. After failing to find his way home, he is offered a foster home, and eventually an opportunity to grow up in a life of privilege and comfort in Australia. 20 years later, he decides that he has to find his way home to cope with the infinite possibilities and horrors that haunt him.
The younger Saroo is portrayed by Sunny Pawar, and he has been heavily overlooked in his lack of nominations in the main awards this year. Although disconnected, the two performances are very cleverly synchronised, and Garth Davis has made sure that the world is accurately, beautifully, but scarily viewed from the eyes of a lost seven year old.
I’m not sure how much more can be said about the film other than to comment on the emotional intenstity that Saroo goes through, and that journey that Davis takes the audience through is equally emotionally intense. I know its January and that there’s a fair bit of flu about, but its fair to say that the whole audience I was watching Lion with were sniffing and holding back tears and wiping away floods of tears at the end. I’m not sure I actually saw the film; I mostly saw crying from myself and will need to see the film again to see it properly I fear.
Now, it may not have escaped anyone’s notice that I can be a bit of a snob about cinema and I’m often easily annoyed by the inappropriate behaviour of others. Why cinemas let latecomers in is beyond me, I really miss the slides and adverts reminding people to turn phones off, and am amazed that anyone considers talking during the films acceptable at all. However, during Lion I witnessed an even less likely display of poor cinema ettiquette: parents taking a child who should not be in there.
To my right, about 4 seats further down, a couple and their child were watching and talking throughout the film. I wasn’t able to go and stop them or call them out on it as I often have done, because they were too far away, but then I noticed the amount of mobile-phone-induced light. This was when I realised that they had brought their child to the film, and the child simply was not interested or engaged by it.
I was shocked to see that Lion has been rated PG, in the same stroke as Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, and Spider-Man 2 (just looking at my DVD shelf for examples here to be honest). However, there is no way that a child under 12 wants to watch a film about a child ending up lost, homeless, in a foster home, adopted, and unable to cope with adult relationships due to this trauma. The BBFC have delcared it a PG, despite their own assessment that the film has ‘scenes of emotional intensity’, ‘mild threat sequencs including a scene when a group of men chase and attempt to catch children who are living rough n the streets of Kolkata’, and scenes that ‘draw attention to the vulnerability of street children and orphans, particularly from abusive adults’.
Whilst this is the kind of film that should reach for widest possible audience for its excellence, I for one want to call out the BBFC on this inappropriate rating. If parents take children to the cinema on the basis that its a film for them that the child can also happen to watch, then they are using the cinema as a babysitter. There were reports of children being too scared to watch Rogue One, and parents angered that an emotionally traumatic film was being aimed at kids. Rogue One had a 12A. Whilst kids will enjoy K-2’s jokes and the big fights, they will not engage with the classical war-film tone and emotional death sequences.
I think its important to see Lion, and perhaps its been declared safe for the family because children need to learn to be sensible and how to cope with the world, but this is a film for the grown-ups, and it is offensive that the parents in Row G in High Wycombe’s cineworld watching Lion at 14:30 with the rest of us on Saturday 21st would want to make their child sit through a film they couldn’t enjoy, and ruin the experience for the rest of us with their noise and loud phones.
Please go and see Lion. Its terrific. Take tissues.