Eaten By Lions

Jason Wingard's Eaten By Lions (2018) is a comedy following half-brothers Omar and Pete, played wonderfully by Antonio Aakeel and Jack Carroll. After the death of their grandmother, Stephanie Fayerman, who raised the brothers, it is revealed to Omar that contrary to being told otherwise his estranged father is very much alive and living in Blackpool. Determined to find him, Omar and Pete arrive in the coastal town and meet a myriad of locals along their journey.

This will be short and sweet. I really adored this film and I have no plans to reveal anything plot wise. I just hope it encourages you to find the film for yourself!

Digital illustration of Eaten By Lions, Antonio Aakeel’s Omar and Jack Carroll’s Pete.
Eaten By Lions, digital illustration by Hamish Mèk Chohan.

It’s not likely to be a surprise, the plot is tried and tested as to where the brothers might end up and the emotional journey they go on, but it's completely charming and full of fun character observations. With vibes akin to The Infidel (2010) and Eagle Vs. Shark (2007), there's a distinct indie spirit to the whole affair that's just a pleasure to watch. I like a film that can go from a crass Asim Chaudhry quip to a Wes Anderson clashing colours/pattern palate mise-en-scène - ah yes, the I've definitely been to film school buzzword.

On Chaudhry, once introduced, he very much steals the film and is in more of a Happy New Year, Colin Burstead (2018) mode, with shades of People Just Do Nothing, rather than full on Chabuddy G. But I also appreciate that I'm a fan, will completely go along with his performances and have rather enjoyed his trajectory. I mean the guy is going to be in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman adaptation - come on Asim, take a bow, Sir!

Beyond the film, what has become a recurring annoyance is the marketing of certain features and I’m fascinated by the choices which get made towards posters and DVD or Blu-ray cover designs.

Eaten By Lions film poster.
Eaten By Lions film poster.

For Eaten By Lions it's the choice of putting high profile actors front and centre, rather than championing those who are actually integral to the plot. Johnny Vegas, though a personal hero who I've enjoyed watching since the 90s, is barely in the film and they've completely eradicated Omar's love interest, Amy. Played fantastically by Sarah Hoare, Amy is a pink haired white girl who works in an aquarium. Not sure the reasoning behind her exclusion but I guess if you can't pitch the film as the next Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004), they - whoever “they” represents - didn’t think their target market was going to watch the film with Hoare's promotional inclusion. Also missing is the very funny Natalie Davies who plays Parveen, Omar's seductress masquerading as a mute cousin who has fallen for Pete. In her place is the lesser seen Shila Iqbal who plays Nadia, Parveen's sister, but then how were the marketeers to know that former derogatory language used by Iqbal on social media would resurface after promotion had gone out.

What the film should be celebrated for is how representational it is. This is not a British South Asian “genre” film, I don't believe that actually exist, this is a film about half-brothers whose fathers happen to come from different cultural backgrounds. Celebrate the diversity of the cast. Don’t undermine the positivity of who is included in the narrative in favour of which audience you hope to attract.