Nominated for six Academy Awards, Garth Davis' Lion is a tender and moving film that follows the incredible true story of Saroo (Dev Patel), an Australian man who was adopted from the streets of India, who returns to his roots to find a family who have long thought him lost.
Growing up impoverished in a rural Indian town, 5-year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) accidentally find himself separated from his brother and mother after getting trapped on a freight train bound for the other side of the country. Lost and alone in Bengal, a city that doesn't speak Punjab, Saroo soon finds himself swept off the streets and adopted by a caring Australian family from Hobart.
20 years later, a young adult Saroo attending university in Melbourne when he decides to make use of Google Earth to retrace his steps and rediscover his Indian roots - the only problem is, he can't find or remember the village where was born.
Lion is a powerful film that is almost too impossible to be true, even when it is. The fact that this story actually took place and the film is adapted from a book written by Saroo himself is incredible. It's a moving narrative that deals with themes such as family, heritage, loss, isolation and guilt; all things we can relate on a human level. It doesn't get much simpler than that, which is something that works in Lion's favour - the fact that Saroo's story is so pure and honest is going to appeal to a lot of people and bring them to tears on numerous occasions.
Central to this rousing success is the dual brilliance of Sunny Pawar and Dev Patel, who play Saroo in the first and second halves of this film respectively. Young Pawar is a revelation as the lost little boy who idolises his older brother and is forced to fend for himself when they're separated. It's really tough watching this part of the film, mostly because you just want to scoop him up and give him a big hug.
Similarly, Patel's more nuanced performance is really well acted and articulated. Not only does Patel put on a pitch perfect Australian accent, it feels like he really connects and understands the pain his character feels for having 'abandoned' his Indian family.
All told, Lion can't be faulted on its performances. Patel, Pawar, Kidman, Mara - they all knock it out of the park. Similarly the technical elements; Garth Davis' direction and Greig Fraser's cinematography are lush, beautiful and arresting.
My only real issue with Lion is that it leaves a couple of important threads hanging come the end of the film. A number of integral supporting characters are all but forgotten at the end of the movie, which is a shame because it impacts how rounded and complete the narrative feels. The resolution that Saroo finds is still hugely satisfying, that much is true - but the lack of resolution for other characters is quite a glaring fault, especially when we're made to care about them throughout the film.
The Verdict: 8/10
Pack your pockets with Kleenex; you're going to need them. Lion is a fantastic Australian film that deserves the acclaim it is receiving across the world. Patel and Kidman are standouts but everyone is doing great work here - the only fault is a hurried ending that leaves a few characters standing out in the cold.
Lion is in cinemas across Australia now