Starring: Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers, Geoffrey Keen
Director: James Hill
Running Time: 95 mins
Born Free is a British film about the true story of a married couple who raised a lion cub from birth while living in Africa, until the time came to let her free.
This is such an elegant and pleasant film, with a visually stunning setting complete with a legendary score and a story to warm the heart. In that, it’s a film that will make you smile, although I can’t really say it does much more than that, failing to bring any real emotional depth to a very nice, albeit rather one-dimensional plot throughout.
Let’s start on the bright side, with just how beautiful the film’s atmosphere is throughout. Director James Hill does a fantastic job at engrossing you in the adventure and wonder of the African wild, furthered by the film’s stunning cinematography that paints such a lush picture of the setting, as well as that score that floats so elegantly throughout the whole film.
As a result, Born Free is an incredibly pleasant and generally very relaxing film to watch, and that’s furthered by the nature of its story, one that’s all about love, loyalty and the importance of moving on and growing up. The relationship between the married couple and the lion cub they bring up is very sweet, and the strength of love they feel for the animal is portrayed excellently throughout, proving a wonderfully heartwarming watch that will surely make you smile.
With that said, however, there isn’t much else to the story apart from that. The film follows the times as the lion cub grows into a full-grown animal, and then the realisation of the couple that they can’t keep her in their care any longer. As I said, it’s a wonderfully pleasant and often heartwarming watch, but there’s very little depth or strong conflict at play here, with the biggest emotional drama coming in the few moments where the couple are wrestling whether to give up the lion cub or not, something that only comes about towards the last half hour of the film.
On the whole, then, Born Free doesn’t have the consistent drama or emotional depth from the beginning, and as such it’s not a particularly enthralling watch, with the visual elegance far surpassing the narrative in terms of grabbing your attention.
Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers are both very likable and sweet in the film, although the best performances have to be from the animals themselves (and the wranglers who helped train them). Working with animals on set is far from easy, but when it’s a big, potentially man-eating lion in its natural habitat, then the feat here is even more impressive, given just how well and convincingly the lions perform throughout.
Overall, I liked Born Free, largely due to its wonderfully elegant and relaxing atmosphere, beautiful visuals and score, even though it doesn’t quite manage to enthrall when it comes to its central plot, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.2.