Lion could be king at Os­cars

DAMON SMITH finds the ex­tra­or­di­nary true life odyssey packs a real emo­tional punch in Lion

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - LEISURE -

HOME is where the heart is, but when me­mories of that place of sanc­tu­ary are cru­elly stolen at an early age, can you truly be at peace?

One man’s ex­tra­or­di­nary true-life odyssey – to lo­cate the birth mother and older brother he lost at the age of five – pro­vides the in­spi­ra­tion for Garth Davis’ life-af­firm­ing drama, which looks set for recog­ni­tion in mul­ti­ple cat­e­gories at next month’s Acad­emy Awards.

Screen­writer Luke Davies has skil­fully adapted the non-fic­tion book A Long Way Home by Sa­roo Bri­er­ley, ele­gantly cut­ting back and forth be­tween trau­matic events more than 20 years apart to ac­com­pany the lead char­ac­ter on his seem­ingly hope­less quest for emo­tional clo­sure.

Dev Pa­tel and Sunny Pawar are both ter­rific as the 26-year-old and five-year-old in­car­na­tions of Sa­roo, who is un­ex­pect­edly trans­planted from Khandwa, where fam­ily and friends speak Hindi, to the giddy whirl of Cal­cutta, where res­i­dents speak Ben­gali, and then onto Aus­tralia.

Cin­e­matog­ra­pher Greig Fraser cap­tures these three lo­ca­tions on two con­ti­nents in rich and metic­u­lous de­tail, pro­vid­ing a com­pelling back­drop to the heartwrench­ing tri­als and tribu­la­tions that will re­duce au­di­ences to pud­dles of salt­wa­ter emo­tion.

Sa­roo (Sunny Pawar) lives in 1987 Khandwa with his mother Kamla (Priyanka Bose) and sib­lings.

The five-year-old idolises his 12-year-old brother Guddu (Ab­hishek Bharate) and the two boys em­bark on a night-time ex­cur­sion to the lo­cal rail­way sta­tion.

A horrible twist of fate sep­a­rates the chil­dren and Sa­roo is trapped aboard a train, which heads 1,600km east to the bustling shanty towns of Cal­cutta.

Un­able to speak the lan­guage, the boy even­tu­ally meets Saroj Sood (Deepti Naval), who runs the In­dian So­ci­ety for Spon­sor­ship and Adop­tion and places him with adop­tive par­ents John and Sue Bri­er­ley (David Wen­ham, Ni­cole Kid­man) in Ho­bart, Tas­ma­nia.

Many years later, Sa­roo (now played by Pa­tel) is en­rolled on a course at the Royal Melbourne Col­lege of Ho­tel Man­age­ment and ca­su­ally con­fesses de­tails of his past to other In­dian stu­dents.

They en­cour­age him to use on­line satel­lite map­ping soft­ware to trace the rail­way line from Cal­cutta back west.

Fel­low stu­dent Lucy (Rooney Mara) pledges her sup­port to Sa­roo, whose stud­ies suf­fer as he stares at pix­els on his lap­top screen, look­ing in vain for a sta­tion with a wa­ter tower that might be Khandwa.

Lion is a ma­jes­tic, heart­felt drama that de­liv­ers an almighty emo­tional wal­lop as Sa­roo grad­u­ally pieces to­gether his past.

Di­rec­tor Davis deftly moves be­tween time­frames as he elic­its riv­et­ing per­for­mances from Pa­tel, Pawar and Kid­man as a proud mother who will never stand in the way of her beau­ti­ful boy trac­ing his blood­line.

If a few stony-hearted souls re­main stead­fastly dry-eyed to the end, real-life footage over the cred­its and an ex­pla­na­tion of the film’s enig­matic ti­tle set to the soar­ing vo­cals of Aus­tralian chart-top­per Sia, will prize open the flood­gates.

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