This is not a pretty sight. All Quiet on the Western Front opens with a group of school boys being told by their teacher how the fatherland needs them to fight in the war (World War I, in this case). Most of the boys, with one exception, are excited at the prospect of becoming soldiers and eagerly enlist.
Paul Baumer (Lew Ayres) is the leader of the pack. He and his friends manage to make it to the front together, where they soon discover that war means living in cramped trenches, underfed, and with the sound of bombs going off as the only music in their ears. There is no glory; there is no victory; there are no girls; and there isn’t a lot of explanation as to what any of them are doing there. Though Paul is a self-starter, his attitude darkens as he watches the war change all of his friends around him from young boys into dead men.
The movie is old, but marks an early example of an anti-war film from a German’s perspective – a perspective that doesn’t get a lot of air time after that second World War. The story describes how war eats away at humanity and begs the question asked by every anti-war film since this one: What is this for, and is it all really worth it? Furthermore, why are the people who aren’t doing the fighting always the ones with the loudest voices?
Now it’s Your Turn… All Quiet on the Western Front won Best Picture in 1929, but did the Academy get it right?
A little boy gets left by his brother at the train station only to wake up on a life-changing journey. The boy in question lives in a small town in India and after months of travel and meeting strangers, he ends up adopted by an Australian couple.
Fast-forward two decades. Saroo (Dev Patel) and his adoptive parents (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham) lead a charmed life. Saroo studies hospitality in school, where he meets Lucy (Rooney Mara). The two of them start dating and by chance, a gathering of friends triggers a memory of Saroo’s childhood.
He tells his friends that his brother left him at the train station to go find nighttime work and that his mother and sister were both at home. Saroo never found them, but for all this time has wondered what happened to his family after his impromptu nap on a bench.
The film feels cut in half – perhaps like its title character. The first half follows little Saroo through the perils of being too young to be taken seriously by adults and being too young to know how to find his way back home; the second half chronicles grown Saroo with his Australian parents and his troubled – also adopted – brother.
Lion is a hard look at the intersection between childhood and adulthood. It serves as a reminder that being profoundly lost is much different than not knowing which college to pick or which what to do on the weekends. Getting lost in the day-to-day is effortless and often healthy; this is a story about reconnecting with a piece of a lost soul. However, what is lost can always be found again if you only have the courage to go looking.
Based on the true story by Saroo Brierley (A Long Way Home), Lion envelopes you in a story about fear, cross-cultural reconciliation, and the struggle to find peace when a huge piece of your identity is missing.
Now it’s Your Turn… Lion was nominated for Best Picture in 2016, but did the Academy get it right?