Oscar-nominated Lion is an emotional film that will have you hooked to your seats, waiting for that one moment when everything will be resolved. It is the true, heart-wringing story of Saroo Brierley, a man looking for the home he lost 25 years ago.
Five-year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar), a naïve little boy, admires his much older brother, Guddu, and is doted on by his mother (Priyanka Bose), who works as a labourer.
One unfortunate night, Saroo ends up falling asleep in an empty train, only to wake up to realise that it is moving and he is locked inside. Years later, he remembers that he might have travelled for two days in that train. When the train finally chugs to a stop and someone opens the door, we know that he is in Calcutta’s Howrah station. But the vulnerable, lost and hungry Saroo does not, as he walks around looking for his mother and brother.
After nearly two months of trying to avoid being kidnapped or trafficked, fending for himself and sleeping on a cardboard, he gets sent to an orphanage. And from there, he is sent to his new home in Australia, into the loving arms of his new foster parents, Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John Brierley (David Wenham). As his flight taxis towards a take-off, he faintly hears the chug-chug of the train that wrenched him away from his familiar home and set him on this never-ending journey.
Dev Patel plays the older Saroo, all grown up and Australian, studying for hotel management. When he makes friends with other Indian students, he realises he is in no way Indian—why, he cannot even eat naan and curry with his hands without seeming awkward. But his past still haunts him. When someone gives him the idea of using Google Earth to find his home, he becomes obsessed, spending years trying to figure out his hometown with the only landmark he knows—a water tank at the station.
The film beautifully portrays the frustrating and at the same time life-changing emotional journey that he goes through. He feels disgusted at the privileges he has when he realises that his biological mother might still be waiting for him. It leads him into arguments (and epiphanies) with his girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara) and his mother. But he realises he cannot discount the fact that his foster parents went great lengths to give him and his other adopted brother a fulfilling life.
Adapted by Luke Davies from the book by the real Saroo Brierley, Lion is directed by debutant Garth Davis. It has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Patel) and Best Supporting Actress (Kidman), deservedly.
Patel plays Saroo with great sensitivity, with pain and uncertainty written all over his face. Kidman, as well as the young Pawar, also give great performances that is sure to pull at the heartstrings more than once. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if you cried through most of the film, including the first half that has the least dialogues and focuses just on young Pawar’s expressions. Nawazuddin Siddique, Deepti Naval and Tanishtha Chatterjee also make small but unforgettable appearances.
A feel-good story, we all know how it will end. But the story is more than just about a boy looking for his home. It touches on the issues of missing children and the perilous lives they lead on the streets. If Saroo was lucky, a lot of other children aren’t so. It also makes one think about how adoption can really change a child’s life—but is no guarantee that the child will make good use of all the opportunities he gets (like Saroo’s adopted brother).
Lion is a must watch for the outstanding performances and beautiful storytelling.
Directed by: Garth Davis
Cast: Sunny Pawar, Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Priyanka Bose