It’s been ten years since Serhat Caradee’s last feature film, the celebrated CEDAR BOYS. Too long. But this lion of Australian cinema makes a welcome return with A LION RETURNS.
The film’s origins as a one act play are evident with a lengthy dialogue drenched opening scene between two brothers inside a car parked on a suburban street.
There’s an aspect of the confessional and conspiratorial in this scene as Jamal and Omar bicker over brokering a peace deal of sorts. Jamal has just returned from Syria where he has been fighting with ISIS. He has returned to see his terminally ill mother.
His decision to abandon his family eighteen months ago and take up arms in a foreign country has not gone down well, making him a pariah to his father and a fugitive from the law. It’s abundantly clear the fattened calf won’t be trotted out for this prodigal son.
Jamal’s only hope in gaining access to his mother is to persuade his brother Omar, and so ensues an intense and emotionally charged exchange in the car, an interrogation by one brother and mitigation by the other, about religion, politics, jihad, terrorism, family values and reputation.
Reluctantly, after a barrage of argument and counter argument, Omar relents and agrees to allow Jamal to visit their dying mother, engineering a subterfuge to discreetly bring the recalcitrant into the house.
Best laid plans go awry when during the sibling smuggling operation, Jamal is surprised by his wife, Heidi, and their young son, Khalil both of whom he abandoned to wage jihad.
Jamal believes he journeyed to Syria for a noble cause, but what is so noble about walking out on your wife and child. Jamal is a tormented soul, torn between real duty and an ideal, between family and fealty.
Feeling disenfranchised with his country and disappointed with himself, Jamal was recruited and first taught to follow the strict Islamic path and traditions and then to prove loyalty and perform a ‘call of duty’, encouraged to head over to Syria to fight with their Muslim brothers and sisters.
He left with a set of emotional and psychological issues and he’s returned with another set, including a dose of PTSD.
Tyler De Nawi gives a high wire tightrope performance as Jamal, exuding the characters great inner conflict and confusion. Contrasting in character and shading in nuance, Danny Elacci imparts a depiction of conflict with concern as Omar. And Jacqui Purvis as Heidi, Jamal’s jilted wife and mother of his son, is very fine as a bewildered woman trying to decipher her husband’s choices and motives.
A reflection of our times and the impact of global issues on local communities, A LION RETURNS is deeply of this age and resonates with its timeliness.