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Everyone wants to know who they are and where they come from or so suggests the film Lion. It is based on real life events of Saroo who gets separated from his older brother and unintentionally becomes one of the hundreds of thousand lost children in India. Lion follows his odyssey to find himself and touches on universal themes of family, integration and loss.
In 1986 The little 5 year old who doesn’t listen, falls asleep on the train and gets taken across India from his little village into the teeming, anonymous metropolis Calcutta. 25 years later and he wants to find the family lost to him burning inside his soul. In the second half of the film themes of finding yourself, integeration, race are all covered but the pace is lost and it becomes too self aware. Whereas the first part of Lion is frenetic, heart stopping film and this is what packs the emotional punch. The viewer feels as lost as little Saroo. In the scene where the policeman in Calcutta asks him what his mother’s name is. He replies Mummy. In that one moment your heart is ripped from your chest as you watch hope evaporate in the hot, Calcuttan air.
Sunny Pawar plays Saroo as a child and his scenes with his older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) carry the entire film. Dev Patel as the older Saroo with his girlfriend Rooney Mara are nice. Nicole Kidman plays adopted mother Sue Brierley alongside David Wenham who plays John Brierley give solid supporting performances.
Lion is directed by Garth Davis and he does a fine job. The script is solid and the ending is not as predictable as it would seem at times, there are definitely a few twists. The problem is the second half of the film. Are we a product of our environment and even if it’s a good one, is it enough? Do we always need to know where we come from? These are some of the questions asked and for the most part answered in the film. It’s fine to change the tempo but the scenes where the adult Saroo falls into despair are just too long. A little ruthless editing would have gone a long way. The first and second half of the film feel disjointed and the soundtrack is jarring – what started off as a really interesting and non linear biopic falls flat. It is thought provoking and you spare a thought for all those lost children who might never their families. Dev Patel plays the role solidly but he just doesn’t elicit the same emotional impact as the child actor who just lit up the screen.
It is nominated for 6 Oscars including best picture and supporting actors for Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel. However for me the young Sunny Pawar should have been nominated. Without his stellar performance in the first half of the film, this would have been a very nice but dull real life story.
Lion is out now in cinemas across the UK.