A brave, intelligently crafted, uplifting family film that chronicles a lovable penniless orphan armed with the unstoppable determination to find his birth family. Sounds familiar, right?
Well, this isn’t a Dickens novel or a brassy musical. Lion is all nonfiction and unless you’re a Scrooge with a heart of stone this film will have you scavenging for a tissue and kicking yourself for not returning that call back to mom.
Distributed by the wizard of Hollywood, Harvey Weinstein and directed by Garth Davis, this unimaginable true story based on the novel ‘A Long Way Home’ by Saroo Brierly, chronicles the boys journey from an impoverished life in rural India where he lives with his mother and older brother.
Young Saroo, played by the undeniably adorable Sunny Pawar, is determined to accompany his older brother, Guduu played by the equally lovable Abhishek Bharate, on a late night scavenge at the train station. Saroo finds himself too tired to carry on, accidentally falling asleep on a train and waking up 1600 km from home. Unable to speak Hindi, Saroo has no way of getting back to his brother and mother.
Forced to live on the streets he soon ends up in an unwelcoming orphanage. His luck turns around when he is selected for adoption by a warm Australian couple played by Nicole Kidman and David Wehanm.
Saroo grows up, planting his roots in Western ways and leaves his Indian past behind him. Until one day his memory gets jolted, flooding his mind with a forgotten past. Obsessed with finding the mother and brother he left behind 25 years earlier and with nothing but a few clues to help him locate his home village on Google Earth, Saroo embarks on a near impossible search to find his home. Will Saroo locate his small rural birth village? Will he remember his way home if he gets there? Will his mother and brother be there waiting for him with open arms?
Lion is full of stand out performances, mainly by new comer Sunny Pawar who delivers a riveting performance as young Saroo. With minimal dialogue, his big brown eyes emote every up, down, twist and turn of the characters course beautifully. No wonder he beat out thousands of other young hopefuls for the role. Kudos to the film’s casting director Kirsty McGregor for finding the fresh young talent who’s screen time is over far too soon.
Dev Patel as older Saroo brings truth and heart to his struggle, supported by the always authentic and lovely Roomy Marra as his new and always feeling fresh romantic interest. Kidman also delivers a truly heartfelt and simple performance as his incredibly supportive adoptive mother, Sue.
Often times with epically emotional blockbusters you find yourself checking your watch as each gut wrenching scene milks every moment, however with a running time of just over two hours, Alexandre de Franceschi’s fast paced editing moves the film quickly. You’ll find yourself in the lobby gushing with your fellow viewers before you know it. The finely crafted film not only delivers a tear jerking personal story it also sheds light on the tragedy of India’s every growing orphan population.
Lion opens in Toronto on December 9th.
By Dave Robert