Director: Garth Davis
Starring: Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, Sunny Pawar, Abhishek Bharate, Priyanka Bose
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. (Source: IMDb)
Now right in the tail-end of 2016, there have been some understated gems in the movie world, and this film, based on an incredible true story, is no exception. Lion is a delicate, warm, and honestly told story, which is touching and emotive but in the least “Hollywood” way possible.
It is ultimately a simple story of a boy’s search for home after he is separated from his family, but it is so vast in scale and impossibility that it fully justifies getting the big screen treatment. It is a story which would seem hard to believe, however it is so startlingly grounded in reality and told in such an honest and heart-warming way, that it is impossible not to feel moved by it.
Obvious comparisons could be made with Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire – they share a star in Dev Patel after all – however, where Slumdog had contrivances in abundance, Lion is far from this. With one being a true story, and one being a novel, it could be unfair to compare the story-lines of the two, but even in their portrayals of the harshness of poverty and slum life, Lion succeeds in being more believable in a much more subtle way, and this is where Lion ultimately triumphs over its counterpart.
The performances in Lion are all fantastic, but it is Dev Patel, as the adult Saroo Brierley, who is the standout here. He was great in the aforementioned Slumdog Millionaire, but he is truly excellent in Lion; more mature and comfortable as an actor, he is utterly believable and really compelling to watch. Equal credit must go to young Sunny Pawar as well, who plays the young Saroo. As we don’t see Patel until well into the second act, it is Pawar who is tasked with making Saroo a compelling protagonist, and immediately he is able to make you deeply care about this character, which is essential for making the story work.
The supporting cast are all excellent as well, and there’s no real weak links here. David Wenham is vastly underused as Saroo’s adoptive Father, although that is perhaps fairly deliberate. Saroo is devoid of a father-figure in his life so looks up to his older brother Guddu (Bharate), and as well as the story of a boy’s search for home, Lion is the story of the two mother’s who loved him so deeply. Priyanka Bose as Saroo’s birth-mother isn’t a huge part of the story in terms of screen-time, but she is one of the driving forces that keeps Saroo focused on finding home, and her scenes in the latter part of the film will absolutely destroy you emotionally! As Saroo’s adoptive mother, Nicole Kidman is quietly brilliant. It’s a very honest and real performance, and there’s nothing showy about it, which does a great justice to the real person she is portraying, and the naturalistic way in which the story is told.
From start to finish, Lion is a beautiful and compelling story, but little can prepare you for the overwhelming emotional gut-punch that is the final couple of scenes. Heart-breaking and utterly beautiful in equal measure, it is impossible not to feel moved, and this is further testament to just how well this story is told.
There’s nothing bad about this film per se, but it does have the feeling of being slightly restricted by its ‘PG’ rating. There were times when it felt like it needed to hit a little harder, and give just a little bit more, which it could’ve had the freedom to do with a 12a certificate.
I saw this movie and you should too. Lion is a beautifully told story, with all the heartfelt warmth and honesty and that film adaptation of such an incredible true story needs. With some exceptional lead performances and a climax which will completely destroy you emotionally, Lion easily cements itself as one of the strongest films of 2016 so far, and one which we might just be seeing a lot more of come awards season.
Agree with everything I’ve said, or am I a totally misguided idiot who has got it all wrong? Let me know in the comments below!
Great review thank you; I agree that this is a standout film for the year. For me it was an immensely satisfying cinematic experience: visually stunning, narratively powerful, and an emotional whirlwind.