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A LION RETURNS (2020)
A Lion Returns poster

CAST
TYLER DE NAWI
DANNY ELACCI
HELEN CHEBATTE
BUDDY DANNOUN
MADDOX ELACHI
TAFFY HANY
JACQUI PURVIS
MAHA WILSON

WRITTEN BY
SERHAT CARADEE

PRODUCED BY
LIZ BURTON
SERHAT CARADEE

DIRECTED BY
SERHAT CARADEE

GENRE
DRAMA

RATED
AUS:MA
UK:NA
USA:NA

RUNNING TIME
91 MIN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Lion Returns image

Terrific performances headline A Lion Returns, a soul stirring and thought provoking independent Australian drama that marks the return of filmmaker Serhat Caradee, who delivers a film in which the impact of religious extremism is explored with intelligence and heart.

A Lion Returns is centred on a homecoming, yet not a welcome one. Jamal (Tyler De Nawi) has returned to his Western Sydney home after 18 months of fighting with ISIS in Syria. With his mother (Helen Chebatte) terminally ill, Jamal hopes to share one final moment with her, yet his actions have brought disgrace upon his family, especially his father (Maddox Elachi) who wants nothing to do with his wayward son.

The first 30 minutes sets up this situation rather brilliantly, writer/director Serhat Caradee (Cedar Boys) providing naturalistic dialogue between Jamal and his brother Omar (Danny Elacci) that is free of any exposition clumsiness. Taking place in the backseat of a car, the scene is the kind that would work in a play, yet Caradee gives it a cinematic flair, capturing the angst, tension, and betrayal between these two brothers, proud Muslim men who have gone down separate paths yet are bonded by blood.

If there is a word to describe the themes of A Lion Returns it is “ramification”. Jamal’s chosen path of religion extremism triggered a wave of consequences in his wake, leaving his family ostracised and the target of law enforcement, not to mention dealing with the moral weight of Jamal being a terrorist.

Caradee constantly reminds of how one man’s crusade results in a living hell for those closest to him. Not only is a father betrayed and brother disgusted, yet a wife (Jacqui Purvis) is left to raise Jamal’s son on her own. One of the films best scenes is when Jamal comes face-to-face with his child, as he is reminded of the life he was bound by duty to raise and protect, yet instead abandoned for a lost and deplorable cause.

Performances from all involved are exceptional. Tyler De Nawi superbly portrays the conflicted nature of a jihadi slowly coming to terms with the consequences of his actions, Danny Elacci delivers the right amount of palpable intelligence as the voice of reason, Jacqui Purvis achingly portrays the heartbreak and betrayal as Jamal’s wife, and Helen Chebatte captures that mix of fragility and gravitas as Jamal’s dying mother.

Shot in a whirlwind 10 days, A Lion Returns in no way feels like a rushed work, due to the deft filmmaking skill of Caradee and an in form cast that wear their roles like a second skin. Important in topic and on-key in its delivery, A Lion Returns not only proves to be one of the best Australian films of 2020, but another example of why Caradee is one of the nations best filmmakers.

****

 

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