I will preface this review by saying that I am not Nicole Kidman's greatest fan. She has her moments, but her inability to show emotion thanks to large amounts of botox, for the most part leaves me cold. I don't mind Dev Patel. He was great in Slumdog Millionaire and The Man Who Knew Infinity, but he's also prone to over acting in some cases (Best Exotic Marigold Hotel anyone...?) So I went into this movie with a bit of trepidation. I also paid full price for a ticket - so I've bought my right to moan.
However, the presence of the facially frozen one and the over-actor was not enough to put me off seeing this film. I'm glad it wasn't. It's one of the best films I've seen in the last six months.
Lion is based on a true story, that of Saroo Brierley, now a Tasmanian surfer dude from a nice family in Hobart. Saroo's story is not run of the mill, which is a part of why this film is so compelling.
A film of two parts, the first section takes place in India where you bear witness to Saroo's family life and circumstances. The first half of the film traces Saroo's early life in India as he becomes separated from his family and finds himself days away, unable to get home, unable to speak the language in a strange city and ostensibly a street kid.
Sunny Pawar plays the young Saroo and he steals the movie, quite literally. The first half of the movie is subtitled and all of the actors are unknowns, making this even more compelling. (For those anti-subtitle, for the most part, you're watching children's conversations - you're not reading conversations about quantum physics or brain surgery - get over yourselves).
Saroo is finally placed in an orphanage, and after efforts are made to find his family, he is adopted by the Brierleys of Hobart - good people, nice people, and you at last know that Saroo is safe and onboard for a happy life.
The film then jumps 20 years, to a time of opportunity and computers. Saroo is off to Melbourne to go to school. He meets a girl, falls in love, but is also dragged back to memories of his former life and his former family. Enlisting the help of Google Earth, he starts to look for his former home town, one could say obsessively, until he miraculously find his home.
This is an oversimplification of what is a much greater story, one of hardship, overcoming obstacles and hardship, family love and devotion and the search for home.
The film is quite literally breathtaking, showing an India that we are aware of, but rarely see. The scenes in Calcutta / Kolkata are harrowing and unsettling and relief is only truly felt when the hapless Saroo lands in Hobart to be with the Brierleys (David Wenham and Nicole Kidman - and both are excellent), the cinematography only making the situation more moving.
I was also blown away by the films sound scape - using background noises to great effect.
Dev Patel is excellent as the older Saroo, nailing the Australian accent and keeping his performance well nuanced and believable. Rooney Mara plays his long suffering girlfriend and David Wenham is his all forgiving and supporting Dad. And Nicole Kidman is very, very good as Saroo's Mum. She's laid off the botox long enough to actually register real emotion - and playing a woman of a certain age actually suits her.
I'm very happy to recommend this film. Okay, there are one or two inconsistencies, but they are forgivable - especially when Saroo finally works out where home is, but this is film at its best. It's a heart warming story, a global story, beautifully and courageously told.
It's well worth alook.
Oh, and the film's title - why Lion? You find out in the last minute of the film. I'm not going to tell you what its about, but it makes the film all the more poignant when this piece of information is imparted.
Hunt out this one. It's great.