Home is where the heart is. In the Indian village of Khandwa resides brothers Guddo (Abhishek Bhrate), Sarro (Sunny Pawar), and their mother Kamla (Priyanka Bose). Older brother Guddo often takes Sarro around the city of Calcutta to get food, while their mother makes her living carrying rocks and doing menial work. While doing a job, the five-year old Sarro becomes separated from Guddo, and ends up on a train that takes him far, far away from home.
Saroo aimlessly searches for a way back to his loved ones, running into so many pitfalls and dangers along the way. Thankfully, an Australian husband and wife take him in for adoption and provide him with a stable home. Now 25 (Dev Patel) , Saroo is achieving great things and has the love of mother Sue (Nicole Kidman), father John (David Wenham), and girlfriend/college classmate Lucy (Rooney Mara). Still, his heart yearns for his first family, and the desire to find them only burns deeper each passing day.
If there’s one studio that’s synonymous with awards season, it would have to be The Weinstein Company for my money. Sure, they’ve released duds, but when it’s time there’s always a movie or two in their catalog that makes us forget TWC had any association with those stinkers. This year, the bullet in their holster is Lion.
Based on the autobiography written by Saroo called A Long Way Home, Lion is pretty simple, in a way the trailer didn’t capture. This is a story that could happen anywhere, and the fact that it is true and a five-year old actually endured it is fascinating to think about. In a way, the film is a little of a mystery, and uses this aspect to enhance drama. Of course, the mystery isn’t what the film is about, but rather, the pull of home on an individual.
There are halves to many a movie, but they stand out strongly in Lion, and they’re different enough to shape the experience in a good or bad way for some viewers. The first half follows Saroo at five, wide-eyed, and trying to make sense of what’s going on and how he’s ended up where he’s at. It’s undoubtedly the stronger act, with a performance from young Sunny Pawar that truly tugs at the heartstrings. This half of the movie also features the better cinematography and direction from Garth Davis, many shots are framed wide which helps to drives home just how alone the youngster is in such a huge world. And from a basic sense, its simply awesome scenery of locales not always seen in cinema.
The second half, in the opinion of yours truly, is still quite good, and ends the movie on a great and earned emotional sendoff. Dev Patel performance in displaying mounting pressure and all-out desperation to find his family hits home, and Nicole Kidman gives her all to a role in which she has real-life experience with; she’s likely on the supporting actress list. Compared to the first, however, something’s missing and the search doesn’t hook as much as it initially does.
It may be the editing, which isn’t perfect in the first half, but adequate. In the second half, elapsed time isn’t clearly defined, and some character introductions/relationships/reintroductions are a little clunky as a result. Chemistry between Patel and Rooney Mara is average. The scenes they share extensively together (not a ton) is when Lion becomes a tad clichéd and its pace compromised.
But even with that, Lion does a lot more to be legitimately emotional than the average solely Oscar-centric movie. In simplicity, a moving tale is found.
Photo credits go to cnn.com, time.com, variety.com, and impawards.com.
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