An Indian boy who lives life to the full is struck by tragedy when the ship carrying his family and the animals for his family’s zoo gets hit by a storm and sinks. He is forced to survive on a lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orang-utan and a terrifying tiger. He must learn to feed himself, make drinking water and all the time deal with the trapped beast he has to share his survival with.
Life Of Pi (2012) – Director: Ang Lee
Running Length: 127 mins
Starring: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Rafe Spall
Based on the magnificent book by Yann Martell, Ang Lee’s theatrical adaptation of ‘Life Of Pi’ is a beautifully rich story of love, loss and survival which can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. While any description of the plot could seem fantastical and childish, the events are actually very believable and will leave you wondering whether this story could really happen. The cinematography is wonderful with colours galore and a truly realistic CGI tiger. What is also impressive is the pacing. It may have been assumed that the Hollywood machine would strip out the depth of the story and focus solely on the spectacle of desperate survival but it is to Lee’s credit that he not only keeps in the introduction to all the characters but manages to deeply instil a sense of reality and empathy to the situation so, when tragedy strikes, the emotion bites all the deeper.
So much of ‘Life Of Pi’ rests on the character of Piscine (known as ‘Pi’ and played by Suraj Sharma) as the entire story is told through his eyes, and it is a testament to the acting of Sharma (in his debut role) that makes the role entirely his own. His emotive narration backs up his very relatable performance and barely 5 minutes into the movie you will be rooting for him and wishing him well. When things go horribly wrong it is his humanity that forms the core of what ‘Life Of Pi’ is all about. As survival stories go, the visuals are at times quite surreal. Lee expertly brings to the screen a deep sense of isolation and loneliness whilst at the same time instilling a sense of wonder but buried underneath all of this remains a very real story about family, the practicalities of survival, and the enduring power of the human spirit. You will probably not see a more well-rounded and fulfilling movie for some time.
IS ‘LIFE OF PI’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN
This movie has clearly been made to be family friendly and is well-balanced to keep everyone on tenterhooks until the very end. While we believe that most children will be able to enjoy this movie, there are a few moments which we feel could be distressing for some younger children.
The movie depicts some animals by being attacked and killed by predators. While these moments are not graphic or sustained and are no worse than what you might see on a nature documentary, they are likely to upset children who are not used to seeing such things. There is one scene where a predator lunges at an injured animal and sinks its teeth into its neck. It shakes its head from side to side in a moment that lasts around 10 seconds whilst the animal being attacked makes suffering noises.
One major character is the Bengal tiger, Richard Parker, who may be somewhat frightening for children. He is aggressive, unpredictable and there are a few moments that will probably make you jump! He features very heavily throughout the second and third act of the film and is usually snarling or lunging out at the camera. Pi is afraid of him at first, but due to his circumstances he has to learn how to deal with Richard Parker and Pi’s constant narration of his motivations should provide reassurance to children that may be worried.
There is some dialogue towards the end of the movie which references people dying in different ways. The scene is a story of Pi’s survival and includes some unpleasant moments of wickedness and desperation; however it is not prolonged for any longer than necessary and as this is at the end of the movie, any children watching may have already acclimatised to the tone of the film.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
To describe ‘Life Of Pi’ as ‘magical’ is both accurate and inaccurate. The reality of Pi’s situation is never downplayed but the style in which his experiences are communicated leads to a story that never becomes too harrowing. In addition, while there is little content in ‘Life Of Pi’ that would make it unsuitable for children, it is not strictly speaking a ‘children’s film’ in that it doesn’t try to dazzle to gain attention but lets the plot and Pi’s situation speak for itself. However, of course, this adult approach may endear some children to the movie even more. While there are a few moments that could potentially be upsetting for some children, this is very much a movie which can be enjoyed by every member of the family. The PG certificate is well-earned and we feel that this movie is likely to be most enjoyed by ages 6 and over.
- Violence: 2/5 (mostly predators killing prey much like a nature documentary. Some references to humans being killed.)
- Emotional Distress: 2/5 (Pi’s situation at first is very traumatic and it takes a little while for him to learn how to deal with his loss
- Fear Factor: 2/5
- Sexual Content: 0/5
- Bad Language: 1/5 (school children changing the pronunciation of Pi’s real name (Piscine) to make fun of him)
- Dialogue: 2/5
- Other notes: Deals with themes of love, happiness, despair and survival
Words by Laura Record
There are only so many filmmakers fearless or foolhardy enough to tackle a challenging novel, like Yann Martel's Life of Pi, but adaptation specialist Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) was well positioned to take it on. As a structuring device, he uses an interview between a journalist (Rafe Spall) and Pi Patel (The Namesake's Irrfan Khan), a Montreal immigrant with an unusual back story. As he tells the writer, his parents oversaw a zoo in French-Indian Pondicherry, and he found himself drawn to the Bengal tiger, Richard Parker--the name resulted from a clerical error--but his father (Adil Hussain) warned him to stay away. On his own, Pi became entranced by Islam, Hinduism, and Catholicism, which comes in handy when his family relocates to Canada by freighter and a brutal storm--as believably horrific as anything in Titanic--leaves Pi (now played by Suraj Sharma) stranded in a lifeboat with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and the tiger. Soon, it's just Richard and Pi struggling against the elements for 227 days, and since he doesn't want to end up as cat food, he spends most of his time in a makeshift raft attached to the boat. It's giving nothing away to say that he makes it out alive, but the point of the journey remains more enigmatic, since fate tests Pi's faith at every turn. Whether that makes this visually spectacular film a religious allegory or not, Richard (a marvel of CGI technology) remains the biggest mystery of all. --Kathleen C. Fennessy