“Lion” may best be described as a true account of two extraordinary, life-changing journeys experienced by young Saroo Brierley. That description gets to the meat-and-potatoes of this moving, inspirational drama from first time feature director Garth Davis. And regardless of how hard you try, you’ll have a tough time leaving the theater dry-eyed.
“Lion” is adapted from Brierley’s memoir titled “A Long Way Home” which chronicles his separation from home as a young boy and his intense emotional struggle to reconnect as a young man. Australian poet and novelist Luke Davies wrote the screenplay which provided a series of unique challenges. From handling cultural shifts to avoiding the common trappings of highly emotional material, he and Davis masterfully present this complex tale.
The film divides Saroo’s life into two parts. The first features him as a 5 year-old boy living in a poor remote village outside of Khandwa, India. He’s portrayed through an astonishing performance by newcomer Sunny Pawar. Saroo’s mother (Priyanka Bose) collects rocks to provide food for her children while Saroo helps his older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) doing menial jobs for change.
While in Khandwa for a week-long job Saroo is separated from his brother at a train station. After waiting for Guddu to come for him, Saroo mistakenly boards a train which takes him 1000 miles away to Calcutta. Once there the film confronts a number of issues through young Saroo’s eyes – the plight of street children, child trafficking, poverty, and even adoption which we see when Saroo is taken in by John and Sue Brierley, an Australian couple played by David Wenham and Nicole Kidman.
20 years later Saroo (now played by Dev Patel) is leaving home to study hotel management in Melbourne. There he meets and falls for a fellow student named Lucy (Rooney Mara). As they dine with a group of Indian friends Saroo is hit by a rush of memories and emotions. With his friends encouragement he begins to track down his birthplace through flashes of memories and Google Earth. But every dead-end compounds his pain and intensifies his longings to know who he truly is. Perhaps Saroo describes himself best when he simply states “I’m lost”.
Watching “Lion” is like taking in two dramatically different movies yet there is a powerful human connection that links them. Young Pawar’s segment is both harrowing and heart-breaking. Davis’ camera often has us seeing things from Saroo’s perspective which adds an extra layer of distress and concern. He doesn’t overplay it nor does he feel the need to manipulate his audience by embellishing the peril. When Patel arrives the film becomes much more internal, at times even meditative as older Saroo not only wrestles with his identity crisis but also helplessly watches the effects it has on his relationships.
The final act wrings out every ounce of emotion left, but it feels honest and earned considering the journey we’ve taken. Aside from one slightly underserved relationship and the film drifting a tad in the second half, “Lion” eloquently handles this incredible multi-layered story. Patel’s leading man star has never shown brighter. Pawar is a delightful discovery. A quiet, understated Kidman melts into her character. It’s also a beautifully shot first feature from a director worth keeping an eye on.
VERDICT – 4.5 STARS
How many times are they going to release this picture? It has come out in the theater and on video so many times and I get tired of seeing that rat and pig singing hakunna matata and then lions getting run over by that whoopi Goldberg hyena!!!
I truly believe you and I speak entirely different languages.
Shut the fuck up!
Great work, Keith. Sounds incredible.
Thank you. It’s an excellent film that deserves its Oscar buzz. Really excited for Dev. He won’t win but he deserves to be among the nominees.
Excellent review, man this movie (and that ending) knocked my socks off. Wonderful work from the underrated Dev Patel. And how about Sunny Pawar. Wow. I can’t decide what was greater about this film, the performances (Nicole Kidman reminded me once again why she’s a great talent), or the remarkable true story….. both those things come together to form a great, great movie
Completely agree on every point. So glad I saw it. It didn’t stay here long and I caught it on its very last showing. I was swept up in it. Both Sunny and Dev are magnificent in two completely different performances. And Kidman…wow!
Brilliant review Keith! I really can’t wait to see this movie, it sounds like the performances are great 🙂
Thanks so much. The performances are superb. Patel and Kidman definitely deserve their Oscar noms. But wait till you see young Sunny. He’s so good. He’ll break your heart!
Ohh he breaks my heart in the trailer! Definitely taking a pack of tissues to the cinema with me for this one!
And the great thing is it’s not manipulative or overly sentimental (regardless of what a handful of critics say). Its emotion is genuine and completely earned.
I want to see this so badly! Great review
Thanks my friend! I’m a big fan (obviously). Did it not open around you or did it just not stay very long.
Very nice review, Keith. Unfortunately, I cannot contribute because I haven’t seen it, yet. I sure love Patel and am sure I’ll love this engaging story.
Thanks so much. I think you’ll really like this one Cindy. I like Patel too and I think he really takes a step up in this film. Not an easy role to play but he nails it. And wait till you see young Sunny Pawar! He is a delight.
Seeing Lion tomorrow, looking forward to it!
Fantastic! Hope you enjoy it. I’m really anxious to give it a second look.
Nice review, heard nothing but great things about this film.
It’s so well made. And the story WILL make things a little misty, but those emotions are completely earned.
I’m not ashamed to cry watching a film.
Me either! It’s a sign of an effective movie.
Exactly, I say let the years and emotion run.
Sorry that should have said tears, damn autocorrect.
LOL! I gotcha.
I was really caught off-guard by Dev Patel’s performance. He’s so good in this. Completely deserves the Oscar nomination, altough failed to see how he was a supporting character and not the lead. And Sunny Pawar is such revelation.
I agree 100%. Patel in the supporting category is weird. I do tend to consider him as the lead. And you’re right, he is so good in this movie. Hopefully it will be a revelation for many people. I’m really glad to see him take a step up.
Hey, I Just watched the movie and its so stunning.I touched me so deeply. Dev was as usual great.
It really is! And I’m thrilled seeing Dev get so much Awards attention. I really think this performance has took him to a new level.
I’ve just written a review for this too, I loved this film! It was such a powerful story and I loved every minute of it, even if I did cry my eyes out from start to finish! Loved your review. Amy
Thanks so much Amy. It took forever for it to open in my area, but it was well worth the wait. It’s such an emotional ride. I’ll get over and check out your review as well. Sounds like we agree on this one! 😀
Yep! I loved it and had a good old cry whilst watching it!
Just read this review after posting my own and couldn’t agree more. Yours was a great read, and completely agreed about what a little star Sunny Pawar is!
Thanks for the comments! I’ll check your review out as well. Wasn’t Pawar great? Child acting is tough to gauge sometimes but he was so authentic. Heartbreaking with every look and expression.
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A great movie.
I love this movie!
It’s one I’ve really been wanting to watch again. So good.
Funnily enough, I had read your review shortly before posting my own.