I’ve always been a sentimental old fool. I only have to hear Vanessa Redgrave’s voice-over at the start of Call the Midwife and I start to well up, knowing the everyday trials and triumphs of East End childbearing during the fifties and sixties will leave me drained and limp. So I should have known better when we decided on a distracting afternoon at the flicks to watch Lion. Based on a true story, it’s a heart-churning tale of a five-year-old Indian boy who, by tragic happenstance, finds himself lost and alone on the mean streets of Kolkata, far, far away from the dusty plains of home. Following near misses with the truly unthinkable and a stint in a teeming orphanage, he’s plucked from the crowd by a well-meaning Australian couple and re-homed in comfortable Tasmania. Job done, lucky boy, you might say. But 25 years later, haunted by vivid flashbacks of his childhood, he sets out to find his long lost family in an attempt to calm his troubled mind. Lion speaks volumes, not just about the casual horror of life on the streets but also the cultural dislocation and guilt felt by those airlifted to affluence. Dev Patel is excellent as the man on a mission to rediscover his past. But the undisputed star of the show is the extraordinary Sunny Pawar as the lost child. Take a box of Kleenex. You’ll need it.
I wanted to see ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ when it was released in 2012. It’s my kind of film but not the kind that got a screening at the plush cinema in Bodrum which tended to focus on Hollywood blockbusters, more’s the pity. We could have lifted a dodgy download from the enterprising Low Countries couple who did a roaring trade in counterfeit DVDs for the emigreys but I’m rather anti the whole it’s-not-really-stealing thing. Actually, it is. So, I was resigned to stalking the bargain bucket to acquire a proper copy at a knock-down rather than a knock-off price. My patience was rewarded and we picked up the film for a song at our local Norwich HMV store.
We uncorked the wine, turned off the lights and put our feet up. It was well worth the long wait. The tall tale is about a disparate group of cash-strapped Brits who up sticks, drop off their excess baggage at check-in and travel to the sun to eke out a low-cost dotage in an emigrey enclave (in this case, a run-down retirement hotel in India). Sounds strangely familiar and not so tall after all. The funny and tender script, heaving with sharp one-liners and set against the glorious chaos of the sub-continent, is delivered with expert thespian timing by the outstanding cast (including that pair of incomparable old Dames – Judi and Maggie). I didn’t want it to end
Let Dame Judi tell it as it is:
“There’s no past that we can bring back by longing for it, only a present that builds and creates itself as the past withdraws.”
Did the old wrinklies heed the advice and find redemption and contentment? Do any of us? Now, that would be telling.