Tag: David Wenham

Beyond the Known World

Beyond the Known World R

Chelsie Preston Crayford in Beyond the Known World

Hot on the heels of Lion comes another needle in a haystack mystery set in India. Beyond the Known World will no doubt garner many comparisons to Lion; it is set predominantly in India, concerns the search of a missing family member, and has a contingent of Australasian cast members — one of whom is David Wenham (who also starred in Lion).  However, despite these similarities the film is quite different in many respects … and it will cost you a lot less in tissues.

The New Zealand/India co-production, helmed by Indian director Pan Nalin (Samsara) and written by New Zealander Dianne Taylor (Apron Strings), begins its story in Auckland. Carl (Wenham) and Julie (Sia Trokenheim) are not on good terms due their recent divorce. But when their nineteen year old daughter Eva (Emily McKenzie) doesn’t return from India, the couple fear the worst and put their differences aside to go and look for her.  Their search takes them into the pot-smoking expat villages of the Himalayan foothills, where they are met with locals who are frustratingly indifferent to their plight. Both Trokenheim and Wenham offer powerfully raw and authentic performances that capture the couple’s anguish at the lack of power they wield over their situation. It is also a situation that forces the couple to examine their own relationship and the impact it might have had on their daughter.

Beyond the Known World benefits from Pan Nalin’s local knowledge (a loose term in a country as vast and varied as India) as Director. He sketches a mountainous India with ironic subtlety that normalises the characters’ surroundings rather than bringing undue attention to itself. Nalin’s combination with cinematographer Ian McCarroll (a New Zealander in his second feature film after Fantail) thankfully avoids the temptation to just show off the film’s stunning locations. Instead, we are treated to wonderfully textured scenes that are complimented with an editing pace that matches the narrative requirements of Dianne Taylor’s very tight screenplay.  It gets the balance just right.

With a rich combination of New Zealand and Indian talent, Beyond the Known World is a strong piece of cinema that stubbornly remains in your mind like a limpet. It is certainly a sobering story, and although probably not far from the truth, Beyond the Known World remains a fictional account of a tale that is believably told.

You can see the published review here.

Lion

Grab Cut Insert Cut F:PHOTOMediaFactory ActionsRequests DropBox46593#weinsteinlion_markrogers-3472_(1)_lg.jpgLion is directed by a relative newcomer to the feature film set, Garth Davis, who has taken the reins of bringing the seemly impossible true story of Saroo Brierley to the big screen. Adapted from the book A Long Way Home (written by Saroo himself), Davis has brought about a film that is harrowing, tragic, beautiful, and thought provoking.

It begins by introducing Saroo (who is superbly played by young Sunny Pawar) in his home village, beautifully sketching out village life from the perspective of a five-year-old. From the loving relationship with his brother and mother to the playful nature of his walk home, his world is wonderfully captured through the lens of master cinematographer Greig Fraser (Bright StarKilling Them Softly). Tragically, while waiting at a train station for his brother to return, Saroo inadvertently wanders onto a train bound for Calcutta hundreds of miles away. Search hard enough and many of us can remember brief times as a child of accidental separation from our parents and the fleeting but undiluted feeling horror that ensued. This feeling is conveyed in gut-wrenching scenes that capture impoverished India in all its Slumdog-esque filth, colour, and chaos. The tragedy of an innocent five-year-old lost among it all, while being beset upon by the denizens of unscrupulous intent, is difficult to watch.

Fortunately pockets of humanity lift little Saroo out of his desperate situation to where he is eventually adopted by an Australian couple, Sue and John Brierley (played by Nicole Kidman and David Denham).

Twenty-five years on and Saroo (Dev Patel with an unwavering Aussie accent), who is now firmly ensconced in the Australian way of life, begins to recall flashes of his early life. This triggers what becomes the obsessive task of piecing together his own origins based on the unreliable memories of his five-year-old self. The obsession puts a strain on the relationship with his girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara), and his adopted family. There is a scene where Saroo remonstrates his mum over her selflessness and unswerving commitment and love for her adopted children. It is a short but powerful scene where Sue Brierley’s anguish is caught in one wonderfully acted moment by Nicole Kidman, demonstrating in her limited screen time what a class actor she is.

If I had one quibble, it concerns the chemistry between Patel and Mara. Both are good actors in their own right and yet their on-screen combination felt a little forced and over drawn. Despite this, Lion is a beautiful and moving film made all the more compelling because it is a true story … make sure to bring your tissues.

Rating: 4 jalebis out of 5.

You can see the published review here