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Lion – Movie Review

Lion is based on the true story of Saroo Brierley and tells the story of a young 5-year-old, who gets lost and must survive in the streets of Malaysia and find a way to reunite with his family

Release Date: November 25, 2016
Writer: Saroo Brierley, Luke Davies
Director: Garth Davis
Cast: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, Sunny Pawar, David Wenham

At five years old, Saroo (Sunny Pawar) and his brother, Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) venture to the railyard, looking for work to support his family. One night, Guddu looks for work during the graveyard shift and Saroo insists on going with his brother. After a long days travel, Saroo falls asleep and wakes on an empty train taking Saroo 1,200 kilometers from home in faraway Calcutta, India.

Lost on the streets of Calcutta, Saroo is unable to speak Malaysian, unable to pronounce the name of his town and only knows the name of his mother as “mum.” Alone, Saroo must survive on the streets, runs from human traffickers and find his way home. Moments of hope turn into dangerous pathways, on his last leg, Saroo is found by a kind stranger who brings him to the local orphanage.

After several months, Indian social services is unable to locate Saroo’s family. Saroo is then adopted by a Tasmanian couple, John and Sue Brierley (David Wenham and Nicole Kidman). The Brierley’s bring Saroo to Australia where he becomes an adult with this adopted brother, Shonedeep.

The second act of Lion features Dev Patel as adult Saroo. It is now that we find Saroo as an adult attending hotel management classes. He quickly falls for his fellow student, Lucy (Rooney Mara). Soon life hits Saroo. He is confronted with the fact that he has a family that has no idea if he is still alive and a brother, who feels guilty for losing his brother. Using Google Earth, Saroo attempts to find his village and his family.

In general, Lion is one of those movies that can push a parent of small children over the edge. We like movies that grab you by the heart and make you feel. Only a fantastic story and great acting can this be accomplished. Any film is lucky to find a child who can act. Sunny Pawar plays Young Saroo and immediately you fall in love with this small child, who loves his family. He makes you feel his isolation of loneliness and root for this ability to survive homelessness and the threat of the Indian street gangs.

As the older Saroo, Dev Patel now plays an adult in deep conflict. He makes you feel the anguish of an adult hiding the guilt of living a privileged life as an upper-class citizen. Saroo is incredibly empathic. He feels deeply about the sense of loss and guilt of his mother and brother feel. He is also hyper-aware of the love, he has received from his adoptive mother, Sue and his girlfriend, Lucy, with whom he creates a complicated relationship all by himself.

There is another aspect to Lion and it is Sue played by Nicole Kidman. Kidman may not have a lot of screen time, but every moment she has, she makes an impact. In just one scene, Kidman explains clearly and deeply why Saroo and Shonedeep are a treasured part of her life.

From beginning to end, Lion grabs you by the neck and drags you through the emotional journey of Saroo. The skilled director Garth Davis masterfully maintains the emotional tone necessary to tell this story effectively.