Everyone loves a good belly laugh. And that’s exactly what’ll you’ll get from Eaten by Lions. With Harry Potter references, a zany fortune-teller, the biggest man-child father that’s ever been written and a 1970’s dress-sense, it’s far wackier than expected.
The story follows orphaned half-brothers, Omar and Pete. When their grandmother dies, the brothers end up in the care of a racist aunt and uncle, who do everything they can to make disabled Pete feel at home, while simultaneously making it clear that mixed race Omar is not of their own. With it clear that they don’t want him there, Omar determines to find his biological father. And when Pete insists on going with him, they head off to Blackpool in search of the father Omar’s never met.
What makes this film shine is the acting. Antonio Aakeel’s performance as the lost and dutiful brother, Omar, evokes a deep sense of sorrow and loneliness. Together with Jack Carroll’s blunt portrayal of the mischievous Pete, the actors’ reserved character interpretations lend themselves well to the creation of a meaningful sibling relationship. A relationship that, although many-layered, emphasises one simple truth; that they are brothers and there’s no ‘half’ about it. Despite the need of others to draw lines between them as a result of their different paternal lineage, Omar and Pete only ever see each other as brothers.
While some aspects of the portrayal of Omar’s father and his family felt slightly uncomfortable to watch, there’s enough in it to show that the filmmakers cared.
The cinematography, provided by Matt North, emphasises the loneliness and sorrow that underscores the brothers’ journey. Blackpool’s beaches provide an expanse for key moments of the narrative and give visual impact to the vulnerability experienced by each of the brothers.
But despite the goods things it does, like all films, has its flaws. It’s so jam-packed with comedy that the brothers’ journey together lacks the sufficiently serious anchor points required to hold its emotional thread. Added to that, the brothers’ respective romance storylines send the narrative structure off from the midpoint and, despite director Jason Wingard describing it as a road trip movie, there is no road trip to speak of. The brothers set off for Blackpool, and then arrive in Blackpool minutes later.
But none of this really matters when you’re laughing your head off. The film’s talented and diverse cast of characters bring some truth and some heart – and a lot of ‘weird and wonderful’ to the table. If you’ve got a deadpan sense of humour and a love of wacky movies, then this will hit the mark.