The true story of a life lost and found
Lion is based on the incredible true story of Saroo, a young Indian boy who is separated from his family and becomes lost in Calcutta. After falling asleep on a train as a boy, Saroo finds himself in an unknown city where the population speak a different language. Without his older brother or mother to look out for him Saroo wanders the streets and roads of Calcutta. As an innocent young child Saroo must evade the more sinister elements affecting the lost children of India. Eventually Saroo is saved from a life on the streets after being adopted by an Australian couple. Decades later as an adult, Saroo begins to dream and wonder about the family he lost, and sets out to find them again not knowing where he came from or where he needs to look.
For Garth Davis’s feature film debut Lion is a tremendous achievement. A beautifully moving film that places a magnifying glass over the unpleasant realities of life for homeless children in India. The first half of the feature gives us a glimpse into five year old Saroo’s simple life; picking coal with his older brother Guddu in order to feed their family. Though the film marks a great start to Davis’s career, its given soul thanks to Sunny Pawar as the young Saroo. He delivers a heart stealing performance brimming innocence and soul, and the type of natural display even the most seasoned of actors would struggle to achieve. In the second half of the film we watch an older Saroo flying the nest of his adopted home in Australia, just as he begins to think about his old life. Dev Patel powerfully portrays the older Saroo who yearns to find his home with an emotionally charged performance, which will undoubtedly propel him to greater things. However it is the latter chapter of the film that prevents Lion from being something truly special, simply because the first part was so brilliant.
If the film concentrated solely on the plight of young Saroo negotiating his way through the unforgiving hustle and bustle of India then Lion would have been a film for the ages. Saroo’s journey at this stage was directed wonderfully by Garth Davis, and captured majestically by terrific cinematographer Greig Fraser; who also did solid work on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Foxcatcher, and Killing Them Softly. But when we leave the trials and tribulations of India behind with the lush colours and exciting scenery, Lion looses it’s potency. This is by no means the fault of the cast and crew, it is simply that watching an older Saroo become obsessed with Google maps is nowhere near as captivating as the films first act; despite it leading to the stories poignant finale.
In summary, thanks to boy wonder Sunny Pawar’s roaring performance as the young Saroo. Even my icy heart melted because of it. You should watch it for that alone.