STARRING: Dev Patel, Sunny Pawar, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, Abhishek Bharate, Divian Ladwa, Keshav Jadhav, Priyanka Bose, Deepti Naval, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Benjamin Rigby, Riddhi Sen, Kaushik Sen, Rita Boy, Pallavi Sharda, Sachin Joab, Arka Das and Emilie Cocquerel
A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.
Lion is the true story of Saroo, who as a young boy got lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometres from home. As he survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia, we jump to twenty-five years later where Saroo now seeks out to find his lost family.
Lion is a film based on the true story of Saroo Brierley. When he was a young boy, Saroo managed to be removed thousands of kilometres from his hometown and got lost on the streets of Calcutta trying to make his way back home. Eventually his path leads him to an Australian couple who adopt him and take him to their home in Tasmania. When all grownup, Saroo makes it his mission to find out where he came from and find his lost family.
Garth Davis makes his directorial feature debut here and in the first half section at least, it’s brimming with chaotic confidence as he and editor Alexandre de Franceschi capture Saroo’s frantic desperation as it dawns on him that he’s completely lost perfectly, such as sprinting up and down a locked-train carriage as he mistakenly steps aboard it in the hopes of finding his brother Guddu. Greig Fraser does a terrific job in the cinematography department, capturing the wonder of the landscape of India and the terror of the environment in which Saroo must escape at night on the streets of Calcutta. Sunny Pawar is adorably likeable as the young Saroo and I connected more with his section of the film, even though I will say that Dev Patel brings his most mature and understated performance to date as the older Saroo, haunted by memories of his past and struggling with his emotions as he yearns to locate his family whilst keeping it from his adoptive parents in order to not hurt/offend them. I also liked Abhishek Bharate’s performance as Saroo’s biological brother Guddu and I thought Nicole Kidman as adoptive mother Sue was fine.
As I stated already, I felt more connected to the films focus on the younger Saroo than the older one as it just felt like the film started to stall and feel repetitive until the inevitable conclusion came about so for over thirty minutes we see how Saroo isolates himself from humanity almost in order to use Google Earth to map out his hometown from memories of his past in order to seek his family and I felt the film focused on this section for far too long and deliberately drags out the film and that actually hindered my viewing experience. There’s a particular scene shared between Kidman and Patel as Kidman’s character explains to Saroo her vision and why she decided to adopt him and Mantosh and while I’m sure it’s the scene in which Kidman earned her Oscar nomination, I think the way that the dialogue is written will rub some people the wrong way. The initial intrigue in which it looks set to explore Saroo and newly adoptive brother Mantosh and their youthful childhood together is brushed aside for Saroo’s crisis of identity slog and I couldn’t feel the justification in Saroo telling Mantosh that he wasn’t his brother and hates what he has done to his adoptive mother Sue as their growing up together phase wasn’t explored enough in my opinion.
A film that’s very well directed by Davis and props to cinematographer Greig Fraser and editor Alexandre de Franceschi as the film excels when we focus on the story of young Saroo and the challenges he faces trying to find his way home. Unfortunately the film falters for me during the second half when we focus on adult Saroo going through an identity crisis and trying to find out where he came from to find his family, which stalls the films progression as it gets too repetitive. The performances from Sunny Pawar and Dev Patel are what make checking out this film worthwhile. As the ending goes for your heart, I just felt lukewarm though I think if you are a parent then this may amplify the impact of the film and ending for you. 6/10