Lion, essentially, is split into two stories. The first half, or perhaps a little less than half, focuses on a young boy named Saroo (Sunny Pawar). When out late at night with his older brother, Guddu (Abhishek Bharate), Saroo accidentally falls asleep on a train, waking up thousands of kilometers away from his home. We follow his story as he makes his way into adoption, allowing us to catch up years later with an adult Saroo (Dev Patel) living in Australia with adoptive parents, Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John Brierley (David Wenham). After memories are sparked of his long-lost childhood, it’s Saroo’s ambition to find his original family, using the newly released Google Earth to assist in finding his way back home.
It’s his childhood story that’s traumatic, emotionally stirring and perfectly executed. This is a film that spends just as much time focused on getting lost as it does on getting found. It’s daring and ambitious, breaking away from the norm to provide a spellbinding movie experience. The story of a younger Saroo has a nice flow to it, directed stupendously and written at a swift, enjoyable pace. It’s gripping. Truly. There’s never a moment that doesn’t propel the story forward, and his initial meeting with his adoptive parents makes for a touching, well earned moment, perfectly conflicting with the meeting of his adoptive brother a number of years later.
There’s a lot to catch up on, including Saroo’s newfound relationship to Lucy, played by one of my favourite young actresses working right now, Rooney Mara. Fresh off of Carol, she once again delivers a brilliant performance, even if her character is sidelined and occasionally feels more like an accessory to allow for a single moment to take place. With the exception of that one scene, there’s not a lot that she gets to do, especially in the third act. I’m not saying I wanted this film to be the Rooney Mara show, as her character isn’t integral to the plot, but that’s the problem. They spend a lot of time building her up, only to forget to use her. Still, the scenes she’s in work, and I’m thankful she got involved with a project as impressive as this one.
To sum up, Lion gets off to a tremendous start, featuring a foreign language opening that’s rich with emotion and full of story. The narrative that follows is an unexpected, moving and tear-worthy journey full of excellent performances and a finale that will touch your soul.
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