Lion’s impact comes from the fact that it is a true story – every scene that scares you is because it’s frighteningly real.
Based on Saroo Brierly’s memoir the movie follows his remarkable life story. Five-year-old Saroo lives with his mother, a day labourer, and his siblings – getting by with meagre earnings but in a loving home nonetheless. One day he is separated from his brother in a desolate railway station, he falls asleep on a decommissioned train and wakes up to find himself thousands of kilometers away from home.
A series of events lead him to be adopted by an australian couple. Saroo grows up in a loving home with parents Sue and John Brierly but as an adult feels a sense of loss and yearning. Using Google Earth Saroo finds his Indian family and reunites with them after 25 years.
Lion is director Garth Davis’ debut feature film and he treats the story with the respect it deserves. Visually he manages to show us the loss and desolation that young Saroo faces, which end up shaping his life. A long shot of the tiny five year old alone in the station at night, screaming and locked in a train for days, Davis manages to create genuine horror without saying anything.
Sunny Pawar, as the young Saroo delivers a moving performance for someone so young. Dev Patel carries Saroo forward beautifully, showing us a man who is figuratively lost and torn between the family he is searching for and the one that lovingly brought him up. However the real star is Nicole Kidman, delivering the performance of a lifetime as Sue Brierly. Kidman’s quiet yet emotional performance as a mother whose son is suffering to find balance, is surely oscar-worthy.
The movie does have issues, it is paced very slowly and is a bit garbled in the second half. It would certainly not have been as impactful and fascinating if it was not based on a true story.
Lion’s biggest success is in chosing to tell the right story, at a time when many are increasingly dealing with loss, trauma, a search for identity and the true meaning of home.