Lion's Den (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner25/03/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 113 mins

Superbly directed, emotionally engaging prison drama that explores a complex social issue, thanks to a strong script and a powerhouse central performance from Martina Gusman.

What's it all about?
Directed by Pablo Trapero, Lion's Den is set in present day Buenos Aires and stars Martina Gusman as Julia, a young woman who wakes up to find her boyfriend Ramiro (Rodrigo Santoro) and his lover Nahuel bleeding to death in her flat and is promptly arrested for murder. As she's pregnant, Julia is incarcerated in the mother-and-child unit of a women's prison where she'll be allowed to both give birth and raise her child for the first four years of its life.

As the years pass, Julia begins a supportive and romantic relationship with fellow prisoner Marta (Laura Garcia). However, after Julia receives her sentence, her emotionally distant mother (Elli Medeiros) decides that her son would be better off on the outside with her.

The Good
Martina Gusman is terrific as Julia, delivering a fiercely powerful performance that grips from the opening scene onwards. There's also strong support from newcomer Laura Garcia, who has engaging chemistry with Gusman.

Trapero's direction is extremely assured throughout, expertly building tension (the climactic sequence is excruciating) and displaying an impressive eye for detail – highlights include a shot of children's feet on a climbing frame that turns out to be made of prison bars and the striking juxtapositions between the prison environment and the children's play rooms (complete with colourful toys, tiny plastic furniture and so on). He also orchestrates some memorably powerful scenes, such as a children's birthday party that takes a sudden dark turn.

The Great
The thought-provoking script is excellent, subtly exploring the conflicting rights of children to both live with their convicted mothers and to be allowed to live in the outside world, without ever descending into preachiness. It's also beautifully shot throughout, with striking cinematography by Guillermo Nieto. (In particular, there's a tracking shot towards the end that deserves to take its place in any given film nerd's discussion of impressive tracking shots.)

Worth seeing?
In short, Lion’s Den is a superbly directed, socially important drama that packs a powerful emotional punch. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Lion's Den (18)
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Content updated: 19/09/2018 15:30

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