Family is a value that humans all over the world seem to share. As a theme it has featured in many stories, proving to be incredibly effective at welling up emotions from any consumer. This value is again utilized in the film Lion, where we look at the incredibly true story of Saroo.
Lion is the story of Saroo Bierley. Saroo was born in India in the 80s, and as a young boy (played by a Sunny Pawar) he accidentally falls asleep on a train and wakes up miles away from his home. To not give too much away I’ll just say that Saroo ends up being adopted by an Australian couple (played by David Wenham and Nicole Kidman) living in Tasmania; we then jump years ahead to an adult Saroo (played now by Dev Patel) as he uses Google Earth to track down his biological family.
This film is Garth Davis’ debut as a film director, and he expertly is able to dole out and incredibly moving story. The first half of the film is almost entirely without any substantial dialogue, and because of it perhaps ends up being the most powerful; the fabulous young actor Sunny Pawar who makes his screen debut leads us in the opening acts. The young Pawar seems so adept in front of camera, he easily flits from one emotion to another, and has the audience in the palm of his hand, if he smiles we smile, if he’s scared we’re scared, etc. This breakout of a young boy lost and on the verge of being broken reminded me a bit of last year’s Beasts of No Nation, although Lion is definitely not as brutal.
As for the second half, it takes on a more classical indie feel, which is nonetheless enjoyable. The Hollywood stars appear here and they dole out some very decent performances, certainly the best we’ve seen from Kidman and Patel in a while. But the narrative does begin to get repetitive and stretched, and if it weren’t for an incredibly powerful ending scene, it could have taken a serious toll on the overall film.
In the end Lion is one of those stories that if it weren’t true, you would easily cast off as a cheesy drama. But thanks to a great treatment from Davis and his cast, we get a tale with an incredibly deep emotional dimension; I was certainly sniffling and passing around tissues in the audience.