The Mountain Between Us (2017)


Every once in a while you stumble upon something that makes you fall in love all over again, with that irresistible magic that first sparked your passion. Every movie lover can trace their journey back a few years, or possibly decades, to the moment that they first realised movie magic existed. I honestly never thought that Idris Elba and Kate Winslet would take me there, back to that dim little movie theatre on the corner of James and Robertson Street. Looking back now, I realise this is probably a movie I enjoyed a lot more than I “should have” (because in reality The Mountain Between Us has almost altogether flopped,) but I at least hope you can agree that there is nothing not to love about Elba and Winslet on a snowy mountain, battling for survival in what is almost an adventurous romance.

Kate Winslet is the free-spirited Alex, a photojournalist eagerly awaiting her wedding the following morning, while Idris Elba is the straight-laced Ben, a brain surgeon who must desperately operate on a dying 10 year old boy interstate. An impending storm has stranded them both at Salt Lake City Airport, with little choice but to wait out until the morning. With everything at stake, the pair persuade a local charter pilot to fly them across deadly mountain ranges, with little concern for local aviation or the pilot’s failing personal health. And so it goes, a sudden fatal stroke cascades the plane into the snowy peaks of Utah and we are left to pick up the pieces of their extraordinary battle for survival. I don’t have to fill in the gaps here, as I’m sure your mind is already drifting to the many injuries, hypothermia … or maybe even mountain cougars, you’ll see it all.

Kate Winslet once survived a sinking ship in Titanic, and Idris Elba once thrived on the streets of Baltimore in The Wire. There is no reason why these dynamic actors shouldn’t carry enough dramatic weight between them to elevate a trek through the desolate snow-blanketed mountain ranges. But instead, they find themselves floating somewhere between drama and soap opera. But here I’ll attribute Elba’s surprising awkwardness to his first-ever crack at romantic lead, (p.s. just as you might have hoped he is nothing short of dreamy.) Based on the novel by Charles Martin, and propelled by the screenplay collaboration of Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe, who share a wide scope of successful romance films between them, The Mountain Between Us has all of the mesmerising elements to succeed. Add Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad, the visionary behind Paradise Now and Omar (a love story, mind you) and there’s no room for fault. But here the once epic vision fails and instead the beautiful mountains begin to look more like molehills.

Right – but coming back to my dramatic spiel in the beginning. For a reason unbeknown to me, I was enveloped in the charasmatic charm, mystery, drama and unfolding romance, so much so I almost shed a happy tear. The film may have altogether tumbled and it might have been dramatically corny, but my romantic soft spot overcame. So if you’re weighing up whether to watch this one, you need to first consider the pros and cons for yourself in order to really derive a solution. If you read this review and at any moment in time you felt compelled to throw up, I am inclined to tell you that this is definitely not a movie I would recommend for you. It’s so bad that it’s really good!

Here’s what the professional critics had to say … ‘This romantic drama is most compelling as a mild story of survival adventure. Contemporary romances often stumble over the first hurdle: Their dramatic obstacle.’ – Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media or ‘A perfect title for a movie in which neither the subzero temperature nor the romantic heat penetrates more than skin deep.’ – Peter Debruge, Variety

IMDb – 6.2  Rotten Tomatoes – 43%



Lion (2016)


The tremendously powerful Lion sneaks up on you as it softly plucks your heart strings and tempers with your emotions. But before you know it, this unbelievable true story will cause your tear ducts to brim and your soul to overflow with bittersweet joy. A captivating story filled with love, loss, pain and hope, Lion is everything you could hope for and much much much more.

Based on the efficacious 2014 memoir, A Long Way Home, the tale of Indian-Australian businessman Saroo Brierley, Lion brings the unbelievable stepping stones of finding home to life. Adapted by screenwriter Luke Davies and directed by up-and-coming Garth Davis, Lion succeeds in telling a complex story with genuine emotion, while grounding effective style and breathtaking cinematography throughout. It’s little wonder that the film has collected countless audience awards at film festivals around the world, considering the rarity of intelligent and unsentimental crowd-pleasers.

If you have ever been a child, raised a child, lost a child or met a child – or any of the above with respect to a mother – this movie will wreck you.

The compelling story of survival, through the eyes of a resourceful and witty five-year-old Indian boy, first unfolds in the company of his older brother Guddu, Abhisek Bharate, and his loving mother, Priyanka Bose. The love that little Saroo, played by Sunny Pawar, receives from his family is plentiful, but in the miserable world around him everything else is in short supply. Carried away one day by a work trip with Guddu to a nearby city, Saroo falls asleep on a train, only to find that he is utterly lost, whisked 1600 kilometres away. Evoking an unquenchable desire to find his mum again, little Saroo travels through the poverty-striken streets of Calcutta, only to fall into the loving and raring arms of adoptees Sue and John Brierley in Tasmania, played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham.

The directorial debut of Garth Davis is nothing but sensational, with his influence of visual identity prominent in the very fabric of each scene. Davis draws out evocative images from Saroo’s journey through India, and from his recollections in later days, but dwells on them skilfully and expertly. But of course, Lion is a personal story that relies heavily on people, so thankfully the cast hits out of the park from start to finish. Little Sunny Pawar, as young Saroo, deserves recognition for his marvellous emotional anchor throughout the film, as well as Dev Patel, the older Saroo, who delivers the best performance of his career. Here, character interaction and development is key, which is where Rooney Mara, Saroo’s love interest, and Nicole Kidman, his adopted mother come in. Both delivering incredible and awe-inspiring performances, Lion would be nothing without its sensational cast.

No fancy tricks, no sci-fi – just raw and overwhelmingly powerful emotion. Whether you cry, like almost the entire cinema in my experience, or whether you ball, you should bring either a small cup or a bucket to catch your tears. Lion is one of my very highlights of the 2016 repertoire, and a film brimming with enough pure emotion, love and hopefulness to last me a long long time.


Imdb – 8/10  Rotten Tomatoes – 87%