The world would appear, from even a cursory glance, to be going to hell in a proverbial handcart. Ice caps are melting, oceans boiling and the inmates have taken over the most prominent of political asylums. With reality fast-becoming an unbearable hellscape of titanic proportions akin to Hieronymous Bosch’s worst nightmare, you could do much worse than turn to Jason Wingard’s quirky slice of kind-hearted escapism, Eaten by Lions.
It boasts the strapline “a tale of two brothers” and it excels in presenting a bizarre, at times downbeat, but also emotionally uplifting take on brotherly love. A soul-nourishing flick that provides an uplifting message without resorting to gross sentimentality or saccharine tricks, it’s an asset during these strange times.
Half-brothers Omar (Antonio Aakeel) and Pete (Jack Carroll) have been living with their grandmother since infanthood; their parents, in a stunningly unfortunate turn of events, having been eaten by lions. When their grandmother eventually passes on herself, the boys are stuck in domestic limbo. Pete’s aunt and uncle offer to take him in, but refuse Omar, threatening to split two boys who have been largely inseparable for most of their lives. Faced with nowhere else to turn, Omar, with Pete along for the journey, sets out on a mission to find his biological father who he believes is living in Blackpool.
Wingard and David Isaac’s script boasts a good-natured, gentle sort of humour that seeps into your limbs, makes you feel warm and crowbars some empathy for the human experience into your brain. The back and forth banter between the brothers is sweet, but never over sentimental. They bicker and argue and, like a comedy duo in the cinematic tradition, find themselves in a series of fine messes on their travelogue of discovery.
The frequent sardonic asides see Carroll shine as a sarcastic everyman comic relief against Aakeel’s more earnest straight man. Quipping along, to the action, he gives a sort of director’s commentary on the increasingly chaotic journey, as events unfold and the brothers lose themselves down a rabbit hole of increasingly awkward encounters.
Matt North’s cinematography is vivid and painterly, making Blackpool look like the seaside postcards they flog down on the Golden Mile. Comedy luminaries such as Kevin Eldon, Johnny Vegas, along with Asim Chaudhry in a central role, add to the mix and supply laughs as a junk-shop window of grotesques. If it occasionally feels like a story waiting for another comedy sketch to comedy along, you don’t begrudge it a small amount of contrivance. Not when something this ineffably joyous comes along at such a dreadful time.
Dir: Jason Wingard
Prd: Chris Bouckley, Matt Carroll, Neil Jones, Hannah Stevenson
Scr: David Isaac, Jason Wingard
Starring: Antonio Aakeel, Jack Carroll, Asim Chaudhry, Johnny Vegas, Vicki Pepperdine, Kevin Eldon
DOP: Matt North
Music: Dan Bababoulene
Runtime: 99 minutes
Eaten by Lions is available on Digital Download and DVD now.