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.
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.