Monday, December 26
Directed by Garth Davis
1 hour 58 minutes
From The Weinstein Company
Those arbiters of good movie taste, the Weinstein brothers, give us a tender story of a five-year old Indian boy who is separated from his older brother and ended up on the teeming streets of Calcutta, a very great distance from his home, and after avoiding some serious pitfalls is adopted by a loving Australian couple. Taken from the events of a real life it has one of the components of great storytelling... someone to root for throughout the entire two hours.
The story takes place over a 20-year period, with a decided change of tempo as the boy grows older and we see his more privileged life in Australia. He very much loves his adoptive parents, as they do him, but he reaches a point that he would like to reunite with his long-ago, lost family... the brother and a mother and sister. After all, he simply vanished from their lives which has always haunted him and he knows it does them.
I found I was more drawn to this story than I thought I would be. The truth is that, despite seeing the previews, I wasn't all that rallied to take the journey. It was more about seeing Dev Patel, an actor who's managed to capture my attention in his brief career, and Nicole Kidman, since I seem to see most of her work. So imagine my surprise when I found myself thinking hey, I'm really into this. I am always up for a surprise in my movie viewing.
Of course there was always the drumroll I was hearing as I tossed around ideas in my head on how this was going to turn out. It wasn't a simple decision for him to return to India but we understand that he's going to or we don't have much of a film. How it works out was another matter although, there too, I thought it would be a happy and teary experience. Who could stand to go through all this and have it not work out? Isn't this the perfect feel-good moment for this time of the year? Well, maybe you'll just have to check it out and see.
As shining as the entire cast is, top honors simply have to go to that pint-sized young boy, named Saroo, played to loving perfection by Sunny Pawar. What an expressive face... I could not take my eyes off him. He was certainly put through the paces. I think one of the most wonderful things in all of movieland is brilliant acting from a child, and adding to the allure is this is a debut performance.
Patel is such a classy actor, so deserving of his international fame. Kidman has said that her attraction to the part was the adoption angle. As an adoptive mother herself, she liked the point of view the film aspired to. Mara, as Saroo's girlfriend who entirely supports his mission, is one whose acting style has been a little
too somber for my tastes, but was the most engaging I've yet seen her.
I'm not sure Lion will roar as loudly as some of its expected competition at the Oscar wingding but it's a solid piece of entertainment. This points up another surprise to note that something this good came from a first-time, big-screen director, but that's the case. Perhaps the film's highest praise comes out of its point of view on family. A special shout-out to the two who handled the very moving musical score, Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O'Halloran. I was blown away.
It has one of those scrolls over the ending credits where we see the real people and get updates... always such fun.