BFI London Film Festival: Lion

Dev Patel and Rooney Mara star in LION Photo: Mark Rogers
Directed by Garth Davis
Starring Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Nicole Kidman and Sunny Pawar
LFF Screening October 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th, 2016
Watch on iTunes

by Joanna Orland

Lion is the true story of Saroo Brierley, the man who used Google Earth to find his lost childhood home in India.

As a young boy in rural India, Saroo and his older brother Guddu seek out odd jobs and mischievous work in order to support their mother and sister.  One night, the brothers get separated and Saroo finds himself on an out-of-service train, unwittingly traveling halfway across the country.  Living on the streets as a five-year-old child, Saroo avoids danger, eating what he finds, and sleeping rough.  Eventually he’s taken in by an orphanage and adopted by a kind Australian couple.

Sunny Pawar as the young Saroo is captivating.  I don’t think they could have found a child with wider, more innocent eyes if they tried.  Adorable and vulnerable, the young Saroo’s plight is very sad to watch as he accidentally wanders from his family into a life of even more poverty and desolation.  The troubles he finds himself in whether it be running away from kidnappers or looking for food to eat is upsetting to watch as Sunny Pawar earns the audience’s empathy.

Fast forward twenty five years and Saroo is now a well-adjusted grown man played by Dev Patel.  He’s handsome, jovial, prosperous and about to start a university course in Hospitality.  He identifies as Australian and acknowledges Australian couple John & Sue as his parents.  As Saroo begins his Hospitality course and a relationship with a girl in his class named Lucy, he begins to remember his Indian past.  With the recent advent of Google Earth, Saroo begins to search for his childhood home, using the technology and the memories which are returning to him.

The segment of the film where Saroo is searching for his home while trying to reconcile his privileged Australian identity with his impoverished Indian one is not as harrowing as the young Saroo’s story.  The momentum of the film dips in Saroo’s searching years, but through Dev Patel’s subtle performance, the audience remains on side as the actor internalizes his character’s conflict.

A moving story with fine performances and visuals, Lion is rather restrained in its delivery, but triumphs as a highly affective film.


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