LFF 2016 review: LION

Directed by Garth Davis

Based on the novel ‘A Long Way Home’ written by Saroo Brierley & Larry Buttrose

Screenplay written by Luke Davies

Starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham & Rooney Mara

Festival dates: 12th, 13th, 15th & 16th October

UK General Release: TBC

Genre: True Story, Drama

lion-movie-poster-dev-patel

Brief outline: A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family. (Source: IMDB)

THE GOOD:

I  was sold right from the beginning on seeing this at this year’s 60th London Film Festival from checking out the plot synopsis and trailer alone. But nothing absolutely prepared me for just how emotionally destroying and sorely heart wrenching this film actually was. I’m good with most if not all tearjerkers, but this particular film really resonated within me something on a personally affecting level that no other movie has willed the kind of emotive power to do to me for a very long time. I had to fight very hard to fight back the tears during its final third act, and hearing many other audience members sitting around me, sniffing and being choked up just before the end credits close, isn’t enough to convince you that this is one powerful moving drama that will really pull on all your heartstrings, then I honestly don’t know what would. The last time a film ended in a kind of happy sad way that nearly left me a blubbering mess would unmistakably have been Spielberg’s E.T. Amazing that another film has finally come along such as Lion that can repeatedly produce the same overall effect on me.

Set at different points in time in the life of Saroo Brierley over the course of 27 years from 1985 to 2012, we don’t actually get to see any of the film’s main stars (Patel, Mara, Kidman, Wenham) make an appearance until two thirds into the story. I felt this was quite an admirably bold and interesting move for first-time director Garth Davis to command. However, the way this incredible triumphant story is laid out bare in front of you, with its own linear narrative firmly set in place in showing how our young protagonist is able to overcome such perilous and difficult odds on his journey to find the family he once lost, makes total perfect sense why Davis would make this choice.

The story begins with Saroo at the age of five years old, living with his beloved, hard-working mother and siblings in a rural township part of India. One night when out with his older brother, he falls asleep in a stationed train carriage; only to be trapped on board with no way out the second it departs. The panic and anxiety such a young boy must have been experiencing at a time where all hope is lost is one that I dread thinking about, the bravery this young boy had to go through when being whisked hundreds of miles away from home with no one to help him is totally astounding to me. I wouldn’t stop crying if I ever found myself in such a terrifying situation like Saroo did. Once the train reaches its final stop, he wastes no time in moving from place to place in a much scarier and bigger outside world, bumping into some unsavoury and untrustworthy characters along the way before being taken into an orphanage. Its here where he is adopted by an Australian couple (Kidman and Wenham), along with another Indian boy as his adopted brother. The answers to why an Australian husband and wife would want to adopt two Indian orphans soon becomes clear as the film further draws you in. 25 years passes and with Saroo, now an adult, having really adjusted to life in Australia with his loving adopted parents while pursuing a future career in hotel management. But still, he can’t seem to shake off the recurring memories of his true family that he left behind so many years before. Once he discovers that there is such a thing in today’s technology – something called Google Earth, he distances himself from both his Australian parents and new girlfriend (Mara) to frantically search where he comes from and to long be reconnected with his real family again.

Suffice to say, everyone in the cast gets a real chance to shine here. But most especially Patel who can go from being completely distraught and anguished to overjoyed and relieved within just a split second when being in the same scene. He’s really that good in this movie. Overall, I was just really completely overwhelmed by the raw emotional attachment I had with Saroo and being able to view the world in a different light through his eyes. This is a film that majorly concentrates on the breaking and rebuilding of the human spirit, the heart breaking horror of losing someone and the strong bond of eternal love.

THE BAD:

Again, this is just another minor nibble when analysing a flawless film making it hard for me to find any faults in. I was just concerned with the way the story focused itself so much on Saroo and his journey to get back home when he was a child that I didn’t think it would leave much room for when we see him fully grown as an adult. I needn’t have worried though as everyone gets a decent amount of screen time, with Dev Patel particularly showing a great acting range and showing great potential as an actor when working with such a great script.

OVERALL VERDICT:

As a first screen debut, director Garth Davis has delivered a sweeping epic true story of one man’s struggle to reconnect with the lost loved ones he sorrowfully left behind 25 years before. Its not just the emotional attachment to the character and story that won me over either, I was really mesmerised by the absolutely breathtaking cinematography of both the Indian and Australian landscapes. Davis is easily a first-time director that we should all keep a very close eye on and I for one am very excited for where he goes next after this soaring true life story.

★★★★★

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