The end of 2016 saw some highly emotional and powerful films come out (Manchester By The Sea, Moonlight) and Lion is another one. Based on a true story, this heart tugger feels raw and real and is filled with very good performances. Director Garth Davis makes a strong feature film debut here with a no nonsense script by Luke Davies based on the non fiction book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierly with Larry Buttrose.
Saroo (Sunny Pawar) is a little boy who lives with his big brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate), younger sister and ‘Mum’(Priyanka Bose) in a very small village in India. His brother goes off to work and little Saroo tags along as always does. Guddu leaves him to check in at work but so much time passes that Saroo starts looking for him. He gets trapped on a train that takes shim far from home. By the time he can get off he is lost in Calcutta and cannot communicate due to the different dialect spoken there, Bengali. He ends up in an orphanage and adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham) who later on also adopts another Indian boy, Mantosh (Keshav Jadhav) who has serious problems and is a self abuser.
Saroo (Dev Patel) grows up to be a normal guy from a loving family who goes to school to study hotel management and meets a nice woman, Lucy (Rooney Mara).
But something inside him still searches for answers, searches to know where he is from and to let his ‘mum’ and brother and family know he’s still alive. He starts to use Google Earth to try and find where he comes from and it leads him on an emotion and physical journey that will tear him apart before it can bring him back together.
This is a quiet but intense film. It sucks you in and keeps you involved in Saroo’s story. Dev Patel has his biggest role since Slumdog Millionaire and is very good. Nicole Kidman also is very powerful as Sue Brierly, who loves her adopted children so much and tries to give them a good home. Rooney Mara has the ‘girlfriend’ role but she has a nice chemistry with Patel. The little boy that plays young Saroo, Sunny Pawar, is just adorable and your heart breaks for him as he gets lost and tries to find his way home.
You may look at the story and think, ‘well this has been done before’ or ‘sounds manipulative’ but I can’t think of a movie that’s dealt with something like this. We’ve seen stories like this in the news, in real life but not in the movies. Also, I like a good cry now and again. If a movie can make me feel so much that I lose myself in emotion that yes, it worked. I want to be so moved by a movie. So sure, you’ll need to break out the tissues but the realness of the filmmaking and good performances earn it.