Movie Review

2017 Best Picture Nominees

By Kersley Fitzgerald

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Lion: I didn't see the eventual Oscar winner, Moonlight, but while I would have been content to see Arrival or Hidden Figures win, I would have been most happy to see Lion take the award. Like Hidden Figures and Moonlight, it's based on a true story. In 1986, Saroo, a five-year-old boy in northern India, convinces his brother to take him with him as he seeks work a short train ride away. Saroo wakes at the station while his brother is contacting employers and Saroo reboards the train, looking for his brother. The train locks down, and Saroo is taken several days and 1600 km away to Calcutta. He doesn't speak the language, and (as a five-year-old) mispronounces the name of his village. He is lost on the streets of Calcutta, begging for food, and barely — and by the grace of God — escaping traffickers.

A young man finds him and takes him to the police who take him to an orphanage. After being convinced by the social worker that they tried hard to find his mother, he agrees to be placed for adoption with a couple in Tasmania. Twenty years later, having been raised by loving parents, Saroo decides to search for his village and his birth-family.

As an adoptive mother of a brown-skinned boy from another country known for child trafficking, the whole thing got me right in the feels. A five-year-old alone on a train with no water and only an apple core from the floor to eat? Little Saroo begging for food and dodging traffickers on the streets of Calcutta? And think about the pain of his birth-mother and brother!

But the part that really got to me was Nicole Kidman's adoptive mother, Sue. After Saroo, they adopted another young boy who had not been so lucky and had been sold nightly by the orphanage workers. His trauma naturally resulted in coping mechanisms that hurt himself and those around him. Unable to love him to healing, Sue's own health deteriorates. Saroo, who had grown more withdrawn as he obsessed over finding his birth-mother, comes to Sue and apologizes that her infertility meant she couldn't have children with a "clean slate," and had to settle for two boys who had brought wounds and baggage with them.

She quickly corrects him. She could have had children. She and their dad chose not to. They chose Saroo and his adoptive brother because the boys needed homes and parents and the couple had a home to offer them. There was no concern about it being too "hard" because that's not what parenting is about. You parent, and you provide what you can, and even when it's not enough, you keep at it.

People adopt for a lot of different reasons, but for me, it was much like Sue — we had a home and JT didn't, and it just made sense. It hasn't always been easy, but I'm sure it wouldn't have been any easier if we'd had kids naturally. You just love them and parent them as best you can, and that's what you do, no matter where they're from (Luke 10:36-37).

Manchester by the Sea: For something completely different, we come to the year's most depressing movie. Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck, best actor winner) returns to his hometown to care for his nephew after the passing of his brother who had struggled with a heart condition. The movie follows several months as Lee tries to set his nephew up with an adoptive family, gently guides the teenager toward the right girl, and avoids as many old friends as he can. You learn that Lee had left town after his children had died in a house fire which the townspeople blame him for. It turns out that it was due to his negligence, but there were also extenuating circumstances, so while he was not charged with a crime, he still carries the guilt.

What struck me about the story is that there is no character arc. It's a character study: this is how he is, and this is why he is that way. There's no redemption.** Lee doesn't change except to learn to drink a little less. He's not cruel or unkind, he's just incredibly broken.

That's what makes this film the most subtle Gospel-preaching movie of the year, I think. Not even his ex-wife's forgiveness can reach Lee's heart. Because there is no redemption without God. There is no healing without Christ's forgiveness. This is just as true for the smallest sin as it is for being responsible for the horrific deaths of your children. Without God, there is no hope (John 3:16-17; Romans 6:23).

** For a better story with one-third the F-bombs, see Robert Downey Jr.'s The Judge.

Image Credit: Ben Becker; "Closed red curtain at the Coolidge Corner Theatre - landscape"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Reviews-Critiques

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Published 2-27-17