Starring: Chelsea Gilligan, Todd Julian, Norman Lesperance
Directed by: Bradley W. Ragland (“So Long Jimmy”)
Written by: Norman Lesperance (“Future Murder”)
In “Looking for Lions,” a full-length adaptation of a promising short film called “Savage,” the question of “how far will a person go when they are desperate to save the person that they love?” is presented. The main characters in the film find themselves in precarious situations where they must make quick decisions that are fraught with peril. It’s an interesting thought and concept, but unfortunately, one that never really connects in this independent drama.
In the first plotline, Ray (Todd Julian) is a delivery guy who doesn’t take his job seriously. After getting fired, he finds himself delivering mysterious items as a courier. After getting spooked while making a delivery one night with his Mia (Chelsea Gilligan) he vows to stop working for them. But it isn’t as easy as it seems and Ray finds himself more entrenched in the world than he once thought. On the other side of the coin Emmett (Norman Lesperance) is struggling at home with his wife suffering from heart disease. With the bills stacking up and struggling to get on the transplant list, Emmett searches to find a way to save her.
There are a few reasons why “Looking for Lions” fails in its execution, but the most paramount is construction. The decision is made to start the film with Ray and Mia, who are two characters that are very hard to connect with. Beyond that, the incident that sets everything into motion isn’t impactful as it needs to be in order to really buy into the kind of trouble that the couple is in. The story of Emmett is a little bit more successful, especially in the scenes where we see him in support groups and being left with no choice but to ask for money in any way he can. It is further helped by an earnest performance from Lesperance, which is easily the best quality of the film.
It is here, however, where the structure of “Looking for Lions” becomes a major issue. Lesperance and director Bradley W. Ragland make the decision to spend the first half hour with Mia and Ray exclusively (with a few cut ins of Emmett at a support group). By the time we get to Emmett’s much more successful and interesting story, 30 minutes have passed, which is a long time to take to get to the most sympathetic plotline of the film. Once we get to Emmett, Mia and Ray are completely forgotten about for around 20 minutes and when it gets back to them in the final act, Emmett is forgotten about as well. Simply stated, the structure is set up so that long periods of time are spent away from integral characters of the story which not only a complete distraction but makes it difficult to piece the story together. Beyond that, the idea to make Mia and Ray the focal point of the film is a misguided decision as the entire storyline of Emmett gets the message across far more effectively.
“Looking for Lions” plays its major plot points close to the vest and does not quite reveal its secrets and climax until far into the film. Despite the development that happens beforehand, the desperation never really feels earned as once the climactic moment is reached, it is just as soon gone and robbed of what could be a great amount of tension. There are some things to like in “Looking for Lions,” especially with Emmett’s storyline and Lesperance’s portrayal of the character, but the film too often gets in the way of itself and falls victim to a severe lack of execution and structural integrity.