The tremendously powerful Lion sneaks up on you as it softly plucks your heart strings and tempers with your emotions. But before you know it, this unbelievable true story will cause your tear ducts to brim and your soul to overflow with bittersweet joy. A captivating story filled with love, loss, pain and hope, Lion is everything you could hope for and much much much more.
Based on the efficacious 2014 memoir, A Long Way Home, the tale of Indian-Australian businessman Saroo Brierley, Lion brings the unbelievable stepping stones of finding home to life. Adapted by screenwriter Luke Davies and directed by up-and-coming Garth Davis, Lion succeeds in telling a complex story with genuine emotion, while grounding effective style and breathtaking cinematography throughout. It’s little wonder that the film has collected countless audience awards at film festivals around the world, considering the rarity of intelligent and unsentimental crowd-pleasers.
“If you have ever been a child, raised a child, lost a child or met a child – or any of the above with respect to a mother – this movie will wreck you.”
The compelling story of survival, through the eyes of a resourceful and witty five-year-old Indian boy, first unfolds in the company of his older brother Guddu, Abhisek Bharate, and his loving mother, Priyanka Bose. The love that little Saroo, played by Sunny Pawar, receives from his family is plentiful, but in the miserable world around him everything else is in short supply. Carried away one day by a work trip with Guddu to a nearby city, Saroo falls asleep on a train, only to find that he is utterly lost, whisked 1600 kilometres away. Evoking an unquenchable desire to find his mum again, little Saroo travels through the poverty-striken streets of Calcutta, only to fall into the loving and raring arms of adoptees Sue and John Brierley in Tasmania, played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham.
The directorial debut of Garth Davis is nothing but sensational, with his influence of visual identity prominent in the very fabric of each scene. Davis draws out evocative images from Saroo’s journey through India, and from his recollections in later days, but dwells on them skilfully and expertly. But of course, Lion is a personal story that relies heavily on people, so thankfully the cast hits out of the park from start to finish. Little Sunny Pawar, as young Saroo, deserves recognition for his marvellous emotional anchor throughout the film, as well as Dev Patel, the older Saroo, who delivers the best performance of his career. Here, character interaction and development is key, which is where Rooney Mara, Saroo’s love interest, and Nicole Kidman, his adopted mother come in. Both delivering incredible and awe-inspiring performances, Lion would be nothing without its sensational cast.
No fancy tricks, no sci-fi – just raw and overwhelmingly powerful emotion. Whether you cry, like almost the entire cinema in my experience, or whether you ball, you should bring either a small cup or a bucket to catch your tears. Lion is one of my very highlights of the 2016 repertoire, and a film brimming with enough pure emotion, love and hopefulness to last me a long long time.
Imdb – 8/10 Rotten Tomatoes – 87%