Lion is an incredibly moving and beautifully performed true-life drama, that delves into the love of family and the importance of identity in an increasingly globalised world.
Life often provides the most remarkable of stories. In a world populated by over 7 billion souls, should there be any surprise that we human beings – tenacious, complex, alive – consistently surprise one another with actions both good and bad? In a media landscape constantly bombarded with news of the latter, the story of Indian born Australian Saroo Brierley is one of those good ones: a story of hope, seeking, heart break, forgiveness and acceptance. A story of life, yet in many ways larger than life, where young Saroo at the tender age of 4 found himself far away from home and lost is the streets of Calcutta, only to be adopted and raised in Tasmania. Some 20 years later, haunted by his past, he seeks to find his hometown and biological family using Google Earth.
Saroo’s story was told in the best-selling non-fiction book “A Long Way Home”, and adapted here by screenwriter Luke Davies (Candy) and directed by Garth Davis, who with his feature film debut has created a beautiful and primal drama worthy of the tears shed no doubt by viewers all over.
Sharoo is portrayed by two actors of different experience, yet equally powerful effect: the younger version is played by Sunny Pawar with an innocence and street-wise cunningness that makes his portrayal one to root for and sympathise with, low in dialogue yet able to convey a gamut of emotions. In short, his is one of the more impressive performances from a child in recent years, and there have been many.
Excellent too is Dev Patel as adult Saroo. On top of his impressive Australian accent (joining a select few of international actors able to pull that off), Patel brilliantly portrays a young man adrift in a sea of uncertainty towards his identity, haunted by a past he barely survived and guilt ridden over loving a family he barely knew. It is assuredly Patel’s best performance yet, and one deserving of lead acting nominations as opposed to the (deserving) supporting nominations received thus far.
Stellar support is provided by a well-cast ensemble, with Nicole Kidman in particular providing heartfelt work as the adoptive mother whose love knows no bounds, Kidman’s extensive emotional register in full effect.
Davis finds the perfect tone in presenting Saroo’s story. In lesser hands the temptation to go mawkish would be an easy way out of properly examining a journey filled with complex and raw emotions. Yet by embracing the ugly parts of this story, the beauty of Saroo’s journey shines even brighter and touches even deeper.