(“Recommended” by Kalavente.)
I did not expect this film to be so religious. Dang. I thought I’d have some quirky journey with a tiger and an Indian dude, but it turns out it’s symbolic and an adventure of survival and testing one’s faith.
Have you ever seen one of those straight-to-DVD films from Hallmark or ABC Family where Christianity takes the forefront of everything, and it’s the most predictable, formulaic slop you’ve ever seen? Life of Pi is kind of like that. Its straightforward religious-positive messaging is bonked on the viewer’s head pretty hard throughout the film, only without directly stating “Hey, religion is pretty good, guys!” Outside of that, if you’ve read/seen any “stranded at sea” story ever, the film becomes pretty predictable for the last hour.
There are two minds at war here: the spiritual and the rational. In the beginning, the lead character’s father instills into him the insight of rational thought in response to his taking on Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity at the same time. The father’s entire character ends up taking on the embodiment of Rationalism: focusing on practical matters, tangible devices, and making sure his family is well secured in their financial futures. He subjects the lead character to seeing the tiger (the tiger in the pictures, yes) viciously attack other animals to squash the idea of the tiger “having a soul.” Gee, that totally doesn’t sound blunt, does it?
Then we have the spiritual. The belief that “God” (or other gods) do whatever they please to ensure the suffering/safety of the people at the heart of the story. The belief that wild animals have souls, and embody the same humanity (to some extent) so that humans can get along with them peacefully. The belief that one should be more open to hope, to romanticism, and to accepting other people’s “truths.” This ends up becoming the calling call for Life of Pi by the end: that one should not be ashamed or afraid to hide their interpretation of life and its destination.
This is, by far, the only intriguing thing about the film (to me, anyway). Atheist as I am, the religious connotation of emotional acknowledgement and internal constitution is almost always a riveting foundation for a story. Even if I don’t believe personally, I find the strength of others through their religious ties to be admirable. They’re interesting in the place of relatable. Everything else, unfortunately, is pretty bland. The flashback set-up, the inevitable storm that separates the lead character from everything, the development of survival instincts from being at sea so long; it’s boring. Everything about it is boring and by the books. There’s so little that made me want to continue watching, and to be frank, I wanted to drop this around an hour-twenty in. I just didn’t care enough—not with the way the execution of all the more “realistic” aspects of the plot were loafing around.
Watch it for the sake of knowing that not all religious-based films are completely unbearable (Silence is also pretty good). Though I say with a heavy heart that it’s not enough to save the film from its bare-boned execution of the things that house such gratifying spiritual enlightenment.
Final Score: 5.5/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!