MOVIE REVIEW | Lion (2016)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “A moving, inspirational, feel good story, in none of the corny ways that those words would suggest.”

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“It would take a lifetime to search all the station in India.”

It’s that time of year…  The Oscar nominations are out and prestige movies are everywhere.  That can be a good and a bad thing.  In the last few years we’ve had amazing, but none the less, “Oscar bait” prestige that I really enjoyed.  Movies like The Imitation Game, Spotlight and Foxcatcher.  But there’s also been plenty of really on the nose, pandering, bullshit faff that is just too impressed with itself.  Movies like 12 Years a Slave and Whiplash.  I find it hard to articulate why some of these movies feel like authentic artistry, while others come off as desperate and cloying.  Whatever it is, I feared I was in for one of those categories, and was so glad I got the other, with Lion.

It’s 1986 in northern India, and five year old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) lives in poverty, but happiness, with his mother (Priyanka Bose) and older brother, Guddu (Abhishek Bharate).  Saroo doesn’t just look up to Guddu, he idolises him.  One night, Guddu is about to leave their small village and look for work.  Saroo convinces his older brother to let him tag along.  Guddu’s initial reluctance to bring Saroo Is proven correct when Saroo ends up locked on a train that takes him thousands of kilometres from his family to Calcutta, where he doesn’t speak the language or know his way back home.

From living on the streets, to an opressive orphanage, to even worse horrors only narrowly avoided, Saroo is soon adopted by Australian couple John (David Wenham) and Sue Brierley (Nicole Kidman) who take him to join their very comfortable, upper middle class life in Tasmania.  20 years later Saroo (now played by Dev Patel) is the pride and joy of his Aussie parents, studying hotel management, where he meets and begins a relationship with Lucy (Rooney Mara).  Hanging out with Indian students he meets at school stirs memories of his estranged family, and with Lucy’s encouragement, Saroo begins searching for the mother, brother and sister he was taken from all those years ago.
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If someone told me they saw Lion and found it to be really on the nose, pandering, bullshit faff that is just so impressed with itself, I would find it hard to argue with them.  It kind of ticks all of those boxes.  Yet, it ticks all of those boxes while still becoming a moving, inspirational, feel good story, in none of the corny ways that those words would suggest.

I could have watched an entire movie of Sunny Pawar as the young Saroo learning to survive on the means streets of Calcutta.  I could have watched an entire movie of Dev Petal as the older Saroo on his quest for his family.  I could have watched an entire movie of David Wenham and Nicole Kidman as the Brierley’s helping their adopted son adapt to life in his new world.  But for all of those movies I feel like I could have watched, I never felt ripped off or short changed with the versions of them found within Lion.

Lion
Directed By – Garth Davis
Written By – Luke Davies

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