Film re­view

TV3’s movie ex­pert Kate Rodger watches the true-life story of a lost five-year-old In­dian boy, who as an adult finds his way home.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - ON SCREEN -

Lion Star­ring Dev Pa­tel, Sunny Pawar, Ni­cole Kid­man, David Wen­ham and Rooney Mara. Di­rected by Garth Davis.

What an amaz­ing way to kick off the cin­e­matic year. Lion is at once a heart­breaker, a jour­ney for the soul and the senses, and ul­ti­mately the life-af­firm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence you need it to be. The film is based on the book and life story of Sa­roo Bri­er­ley, en­ti­tled, fit­tingly, A Long Way Home. There are so many cre­ative pit­falls adapt­ing such a deeply emo­tional and at times quite har­row­ing story for the big screen, but thank­fully, first-time fea­ture di­rec­tor Garth Davis (Top of the Lake) doesn’t miss a beat.

Ce­ment­ing his lead­ing man sta­tus is Dev Pa­tel (Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire/Chap­pie) as Sa­roo. He isn’t the only stand-out as Sa­roo, as his story spans decades. In one of the most im­pres­sive and mem­o­rable per­for­mances from a child ac­tor I’ve wit­nessed, tiny Sunny Pawar as young Sa­roo is noth­ing short of mirac­u­lous.

Sa­roo’s story is this: as a five-year-old boy, he finds him­self lost on the hec­tic, ter­ri­fy­ing streets of Cal­cutta, In­dia. Hun­dreds of miles from his vil­lage and home, his fruit­less search for his fam­ily sees him scooped up into an or­phan­age. Be­fore the year is out, as­sured all was done to find his mother and older brother to no avail, Sa­roo is adopted. His new home, Tas­ma­nia, Australia; his new par­ents, Sue and John Bri­er­ley (played by Ni­cole Kid­man and David Wen­ham (Top of the Lake/Lord of the Rings).

Twenty years later, a happy, ro­bust, con­tented young man, loved and nour­ished by his adop­tive par­ents, Sa­roo leaves Tas­ma­nia to study. The con­stant pull of his real home­land and his real fam­ily be­comes much stronger, and so much harder to ig­nore.

The birth of Google Earth will give him the tools he needs to be­gin his search.

Di­rec­tor Garth Davis tells Sa­roo’s story in a re­fresh­ingly lin­ear way – the sparse use of flash­backs pro­vides mo­men­tary con­tex­tual heart­beats rather than plot sign­posts, and they’re quite beau­ti­ful. There is so much more to the story than you’ll ex­pect; so much so that I feel com­pelled to say no more, other than the plen­ti­ful awards nom­i­na­tions are very wor­thy, and it would be a stone-cold heart in­deed that didn’t al­low Sa­roo’s story to sink in through the chinks.

The pull of his real home­land be­comes much stronger.

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