Directed by Garth Davis
Lion is based on the true story of Saroo who, as a young boy growing up in India, got separated from his family and was lost on a train. He eventually gets adopted by a nice Australian family but he never forgets the events that led to him being separated from his mother, his little sister and his beloved older brother. As a young adult, Saroo learns of the new technology called Google Earth, and he sets out to try to figure out where he came from and how to get back home.
Honestly, I wasn't sure whether I would like Lion or not. I mean, I like true stories, and sometimes movies would've been better had they been true (ie Flight). However, I am often skeptical of whether the movie will actually be a good movie, rather than just settling for telling a good/true story. That being said, I felt like Lion mostly succeeded.
What worked for Lion is that it wasn't told in flashbacks. We don't go back and forth from past and present. The story telling here is linear, which I think works to the films benefit. Often film like this rely on this back and forth narrative, and indeed I expecting Lion to be the same way. But immersing ourselves in young Saroo's world for the first 45 minutes-1 hour was a treat. It was sad without purposely tugging on your heartstrings (too much) but was still a heartbreaking story of a young 5 year old, separated from everything he knows, in a part of the country that doesn't speak the language he knows. And young Sunny Pawar, playing little Saroo, is a treasure to watch. Sunny is incredibly adorable, but also feels very natural as a child actor. He just runs with the innocence and lostness of Saroo.
As we hit the second half of the film, we finally meet Dev Patel, playing grown-up Saroo. Dev Patel, most known for Slumdog Millionaire, has grown up. Only 17 when he filmed that film, Dev is now almost ten years older. And he has certainly grown as an actor. Dev is able to delve into the complexities of Saroo, both trying to embrace the world around him, but also trying to remember where he came from. As well, we have Nicole Kidman, playing Saroo's adoptive mother. While the early moments in the film of young Saroo and his new mother are heart-warming but also somewhat devastating, in their grown up years is where the film seems to lag somewhat. We aren't really given context to what their relationship is now besides that Saroo is a "good son". They are given a spattered relationship, at best, and I feel this drags the film down. However, Nicole Kidman is given some very juicy scenes and she plays them beautifully. I won't spoil much, but two scenes in particular had me teary.
Overall, the first half of Lion was by far the best, in my opinion. Almost completely in subtitles and led by a 5 year old, it is the most beautiful and heartbreaking. The second half of the film seems to drag a little too long and give too little context to Saroo and the relationships he has with others. However, Lion is a moving story about a man feeling lost, trying to find his way back home. It's certainly weepy, but that's in the very nature of the story itself. The cinematography is beautiful and Dustin O'Halloran's score is haunting and beautiful. It's not an overly memorable movie, but it's worth seeing.