Eaten by Lions by Jason Wingard is a warm and surreally comic film, starring an array of British comedy talent. It’s a more raffish and comedic East Is East for our times.
The Fable of the Dog andby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
The parents of half-brothers Omar (Antonio Aakeel, Tomb Raider) and Pete (comedian Jack Carroll, Trollied) were killed in a freak ballooning accident (hence the title) and the two youngsters were brought up by their beloved Gran (Stephanie Fayerman) in Bradford. When she dies, Omar, the result of their mother’s one night stand with an unnamed Asian in Rhyl, isn’t accepted by the rest of the family (Vicki Pepperdine, Getting On) – she will only look after Pete, and Omar is made to feel unwelcome. So naive Omar sets off to find his real father using the clues Gran left behind to trace him. The two brothers are inseparable, so savvy Pete, who has cerebral palsy and uses a walking frame, goes with him.
Their road trip takes them to the fantasy fun palaces of Blackpool and a chain of touching, funny serendipitous happenings. These include meeting seaside worker Amy (Sarah Hoare, Chewing Gum) and her bizarre, bed and breakfast-owning uncle (Johnny Vegas, Still Open All Hours); comedian Tom Binns as an end-of-the-pier bogus fortune teller; and comedian Asim Chaudhry (Black Mirror), as Irfan, an immature, man-child gift-shop owner, and his numerous, extended Indian/Pakistani Choudry family, which includes the stereotype-subverting Parveen (Natalie Davies, Coronation Street). Also credited in the mix are Nitin Ganatra (Bride & Prejudice), and Hayley Tamaddon (Coronation Street).
The comic chemistry between Omar and Pete means their jokes and one-liners about the obvious realities of disability and race crackle and are genuinely funny. Overall, Eaten by Lions celebrates the kind of heart-warming multiculturalism that we knew during the summer Olympics era in London in 2012. People’s families may be a bit dysfunctional, their behaviour may be eccentric or even strange beyond words, but underneath they’re all quite good-hearted really – though it’s not soft-centred. Director Jason Wingard, co-writer with David Isaac, was an indie film award winner with In Another Life in 2017 and the film is livened with snazzy visual sequences that make it a fun watch.
Eaten by Lions premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and is released on 29 March 2019 in the UK.