Lion is a drama directed by Garth Davis, with a screenplay by Luke Davies. Adapted from the real-life Saroo Brierley’s biography A Long Way Home, the film follows Saroo (Sunny Pawar), a five-year-old boy from India, who gets separated from his older brother one night at a train station. Saroo eventually boards an empty train looking for his brother, but that train eventually takes him over a thousand miles away from his home. Lost on the streets of Calcutta, Saroo struggles to scrape by as a homeless youth, but he is eventually adopted by an Australian couple that relocates him to their home in Tasmania. Twenty years later, Saroo (Dev Patel), who cannot remember where he is originally from, sets out to find his family in India using Google Earth technology.
Although there were some emotionally affecting films this past year that brought out the water works, none ripped open my tear ducts quite like Lion. The thing I was most drawn to in Garth Davis’s feature debut is its bilateral emotional journey. On the one hand, the story of Saroo becoming lost from his family is exceptionally heartbreaking, and this definitely tugged hard at my heart strings. Conversely, the story is one of hope and inspiration, and it is hard not to find a sense of strength in Saroo’s drive and determination. Davis and screenwriter Luke Davies bring Saroo Brierley’s beautiful story to life in an amazingly reverential manner, and I assure you, these filmmakers have absolutely earned each and every Oscar nomination that Lion has received.
So far, I have talked almost exclusively about Lion’s emotion, and rightfully so—the film’s passion is what sucked me in. However, that emotion flows from the film’s outstanding acting performances. Given their Oscar nominations, it is clear to see why Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman have garnered the vast majority of the film’s widespread attention. Patel, who rose to worldwide fame with his performance in the Best Picture-winner Slumdog Millionaire (2008), gives a competent performance as the adult Saroo, ardently portraying the main character’s tortured fixation on finding his family. Patel definitely deserves his Oscar nod. Kidman also gives a quietly exceptional performance as Saroo’s adopted mother Sue, a woman with an undeniable maternal love for her son—Kidman portrays the character’s emotional rollercoaster sharply.
The highlight of the film for me, though, was newcomer Sunny Pawar’s performance in the film’s first act as a young Saroo. By the end of the film, you are completely invested in Saroo’s journey; however, I am confident in saying that if it were not for Pawar’s performance in the first third of the movie, this emotional connection would not be near as strong. Pawar absolutely nails every distant look, every subtle whimper, and every enlightened smile—despite his lack of acting experience, Pawar shines like a seasoned star on the silver screen. Lion is rated PG-13 for thematic material and some sensuality.
Lion trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RNI9o06vqo
Academy Award nominations for Lion:
Best Picture (Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, and Angie Fielder)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Dev Patel)
Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Nicole Kidman)
Best Adapted Screenplay (Luke Davies)
Best Original Score (Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka)
Best Cinematography (Greig Fraser)
Previous movies on the countdown of my Top 10 Films of 2016:
- O.J.: Made in America
- La La Land
- Nocturnal Animals