Pi Patel intrigues the audience first with a strange name and then with his strange story. The work of Yann Martel is presented on the big screen by none other the spectacular director Ang Lee.
Patel’s charming beginnings at Pondicherry are depicted with tones of what makes India so marvelous, the diversity. From one religion to another the young Patel sways in and out of naming his Gods. With over 33 million Gods to choose from in Hinduism, to the mighty Allah and the forgiving Christ he is shown as a person of a highly God-loving nature. His very nature is apparently what serves him in the later part of the story. And the setting of the zoo and all the different animals is mostly very engaging.
Bound on a ship to Canada, Patel is the lone ‘human’ survivor when the ship later wrecks due to a nasty storm. With him for company are a zebra, a hyena, an Orangutan and a fierce tiger named Richard Parker. The next few hours are a wonderful fill of spell-binding imagery. The 227 days that Patel spends shuttling between a raft he makes and the life-boat are fringed with dangerous encounters. When he strikes upon an island and is forced to leave upon finding that the island is carnivorous his sailing adventure begins again.
The beauty of nature, largely at sea is captured beautifully, the flying fish, the playful dolphins and especially the sighting of a whale under the starry nights. Unlike Patel the audience is treated to the marvelous sights and spared from the bouts of sea-sickness or the harsh sun.
The journey lends Patel to believe in God. He gathers many other life lessons of hope, being challenged, keeping busy, having a companion and specifically, the importance of letting go.
If you are a reader, then the book is a must read. Martel writes well. Even so, watch the movie, even without a strong screenplay, its a visual treat. And if you do bite into a slice of Patel’s lessons, even better!