You’d have to be inhuman not to resonate with Lion in some way. After all, the fear of becoming lost and separated from your family is a universal one. That’s why there’s no way the true story of Saroo Brierley won’t effect you. At 5-years old, he ends up thousands of miles from home after getting trapped on a train.
He gets dropped off in Calcutta where he’s forced to survive alone on the streets. He doesn’t know what to do or where to go and doesn’t even understand the language (Bengali). I don’t know about you, but my five year old self wouldn’t have lasted a day.
Like many films about journeys and travels, you want to reach into Lion and help Saroo find his way to safety. It’s never gruelling to watch, but it’s still despairing to see a child in such a harrowing position. Plus, Sunny Pawar (the kid who plays the young Saroo) is likeable so you genuinely care about his well-being. Luckily, he’s saved by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). They adopt Saroo, take him home to Tasmania and 25 years later, he grows into Dev Patel.
Even after so much time has passed, Saroo still can’t get over the fact he has no idea where his real home is. He’s also haunted by the idea that his real family must have endured so much pain trying to find him. I felt every bit of his angst and frustration. I mean, everyone deserves to know where they came from. Anyway, it’s a good job we saw the invention of Google Earth, as this is what Saroo uses to search for his family.
Because I have so much respect for the story, it pains me to say the film loses its way in the second half. It struggles to sustain the momentum built up in the gripping first act. Its impact softens as familial themes are introduced. In fairness, they are insightful, but they feel forced upon the viewer.
And watching Saroo scan Google Earth isn’t exactly captivating. I get it’s what happened real life, but I still don’t want to watch a guy stare at a screen and mope around all day. Also, having seen a survival adventure in the first half, Saroo’s detective work on Google feels out of place. It isn’t that interesting when it’s all said and done.
But still, Lion is very well made with stunning shots of India and Australia. It’s a great achievement from Garth Davis to be able to capture two worlds in such an open way. Better yet, you always feel involved with the movie, which is why it succeeds, despite its flaws. It builds on your emotions to the point where you can’t help but feel lost yourself.
Lion is a time-old journeyman’s tale, told with a passion for the true story it’s based on. The latter half could have been better handled. But it does little to hurt the experience of watching this great journey unfold. Google Earth to the rescue!
Director: Garth Davis
Writers: Luke Davies (screenplay), Saroo Brierley (based on the book by)
Stars: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, Sunny Pawar, Abhishek Bharate
Run Time: 118 minutes.