Lion (2016) 4 out of 5 stars
Directed by Garth Davis
Starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Sunny Pawar
Nominated for six Oscars: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Patel), Best Supporting Actress (Kidman), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score
How do you think it feels hearing my mother scream my name every night?!—Saroo Brierley
After his brother accidentally leaves him on a train, young Saroo (Pawar, so FRIGGIN CUTE) travels 1600 kilometers from his home to Calcutta. Lost and afraid, Saroo desperately tries to find his way home to his family. He ends up in an orphanage after escaping the clutches of a roving gang and a child trafficker, and gets adopted by Sue and John Brierley (Kidman and David Wenham). Fast forward 25 years: Saroo (Patel) is on the verge of going to school for hotel management when he is struck by the realization that his Indian family has spent the last 25 years looking for him when the topic of his past comes up at a friend’s party. Overcome with guilt and grief, Saroo utilizes Google Earth to try and find his real family again.
Lion is based on the real-life story of Saroo Brierley, who wrote his memoir A Long Way Home in 2014 after finding his family in India. It really is a heart-rending story about what it means to be a family, but the film, despite having a super strong beginning and emotional ending, kind of falls apart in the middle. The beginning, when we meet little Saroo, is incredible; we are pulled in to Saroo’s plight when he gets trapped on the train to Calcutta, we are terrified for him as he gets pushed through the crowds and almost gets captured by a street gang. Little Sunny Pawar is phenomenal; his energy and emotion are infectious, and he really captures your heart.
And then you fast-forward to when he’s all grown up and I quickly lost interest, mostly because I didn’t care about Rooney Mara‘s character Lucy. I didn’t care for the whole romantic part of the film; I was much more interested in how Saroo dealt with his shame and grief and how it affected his adopted family. His quest to find his real family tears apart his adopted family because he doesn’t tell them why he quits his job and stops talking to them. Nicole Kidman is literally Sue Brierley; like, they look exactly the same, and Kidman is masterful in the role. She does a wonderful job conveying the sorrow of watching her family, that she worked so hard to build, fall apart. But all of the scenes with Lucy were unneeded and really slowed the film down.
That ending, though. Good Lord. Bring your tissues; it’s an obvious ending but when Saroo walks down the streets of his childhood village and sees his mother for the first time in 25 years…ugh. So incredible.
However emotional and inspiring Lion is, I don’t think it’s going to win anything at the Oscars, which is a shame. Patel and Kidman put in solid performances, but I don’t think they outshone the other nominees. Maybe Best Adapted Screenplay.
Fun Fact: Sunny Pawar didn’t speak English when filming began and bonded with Nicole Kidman, his on-screen mother, by playing cricket with her—scenes which eventually made it into the film.
Why you should watch it: It’s a really moving story about family and the love that bonds families together, even across thousands of miles.
Why you shouldn’t: Really gets bogged down in the middle; makes it feel a lot longer than its two-hour runtime.
Only two more Best Picture nominees left! And if you enjoyed/hated Lion, feel free to drop me a comment!