Lion online movie review - Review: Lion
When the source story is a compelling story, it makes it a little easier for it to be a powerful film. Lion is a film of stirring emotions.
It depicts a real life story of Saroo Brierley, who after 25 years of being separated from his family, miraculously finds them with the help of modern day technology Google Earth. It took 6 years of painstaking search.
Saroo (whose birth name name is actually 'Sheru' meaning 'lion') grew up in Ganesh Talai, a village in the city of Khandwa, India. His mother is a labourer carrying bricks for a living and young Saroo (Sunny Pawar) desperately wants to help out by joining his older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) foraging for money at train stations. One night, when he was 5 years old, he took a nap and woke up to find his brother missing. In an attempt to search for him, he boarded a departing train, which ultimately took him on a 1,600km journey to the city of Calcutta.
The young Sunny Pawar gave a magnetic and immersive performance as the young Saroo. He blends in so naturally with the life that is portrayed, and we as the audience are instantly drawn in by his innocence and on-screen charisma. Alone, defenceless and frightened, we follow him as he struggles through perils, before he is finally put in an orphanage and adopted by an Australian couple John (David Wenham - 'Lord of the Rings') and Sue Brierley (Nicole Kidman - 'The Railway Man'). It was delightful to see those two Aussie actors being cast in their respective roles.
Pawar effortlessly carries the first half of the film and sets the perfect tone and foundations for the remaining half. In the present day, the grown up Saroo (Dev Patel), is now at university studying Hotel Management in Australia, where he meets girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara). We see him living a very different life than he otherwise would have. At a friends' gathering, he stumbled upon a plate of "Jalebi" ? a sweet dessert popular in India, and it triggered a childhood memory of him and his brother Guddu back home. This was an extremely profound scene, as it is incredibly relatable. We all have those moments where something little like that can prompt us to reminisce about our childhood memories we keep close to us. For many of us, 'home' evokes sentiments that are familiar, tender and nostalgic. Perhaps when it comes to our childhood memories of home, we, like Saroo, are not afraid to show our vulnerabilities. The memories we have may be faint gossamers of the past, but they do leave indelible marks on us and the bonds we have with those we love are perpetual.
The second half is comparatively weaker. The film loses a little of its momentum but it is quiet understandable as it is somewhat difficult to propel the narrative forward with excitement when the search for home is all via Google Maps on a computer screen. The result is that when he finally found his home on the map, it happened quickly and seemed relatively easy, compared to the many years spent in real life. And let me just say, the idea of using Google Maps to try and match the mental pictures in his mind of his home is just ingenious. Without it, the search would have been almost impossible.
Nevertheless, Garth Davis ('Top of the Lake') manages to harness its energy of its brilliant cast and the story never ceases to move us, up until the final reunion. Kidman, in particular, portrays Sue's fragility and strength with sensitivity and density. Patel is equally solid, matching her fear and uncertainty with his own quiet conviction and understanding. He has matured immensely since his 'Slumdog Millionaire' performance, bringing a sense of stability and trust in his character.
A relatively unknown Australian director, Davis does a fine job in finding a comfortable balance between heaviness and warmth, and gives us a film that is touching, but not excessively lachrymose. It is not only a film about searching for our identity and our roots, as it also touches on the theme of cross-country adoption. The cinematography by Greig Fraser ('Rogue One', 'Zero Dark Thirty') is magnificently real, and his most effective shots echo those of a satellite, giving us a bird's eye trace of Saroo's footsteps back home.
Lion made me ponder, why is it so important to all of us that we know where we come from? Perhaps the answer is simple. When we are pulled apart from our origins by the vicissitudes of life, we would innately embody a kind of unrelenting determination to learn and connect with those that had an impact on us and made us who we are. To find peace and to know where we are going, we might first need to know where we come from. Saroo's bond with his family, particularly with Guddu and his birth mother was unbreakable. One can only imagine the years of anguish and torment he went through not knowing what happened to his family. Now, he can finally put those questions to rest.