Thursday, 19 January 2017
FILM REVIEW: LION
Just as the childhood song always insisted, it is indeed a small world - one made even smaller by the rise and reach of the internet and social media. You can survey the streets of a foreign town without ever leaving your home; make friends with people in other countries, talking face-to-face via your computer screen; reconnect with school chums you haven't seen since you graduated.
The world is a small and amazing place, but in the 1990s it was a little less of both. More so for a young boy from a small village in India.
With no phone and no internet, 5-year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawal) didn't even know his mother's name when he became separated from his family; accidentally whisked cross-country by train and forced to fend for himself.
A series of almost unfortunate events lead to Saroo being adopted by the Brierlies (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham), a couple from Tasmania: an island state of Australia and, for all intents and purposes, at the bottom of the world.
Growing into a fine young man (played by Dev Patel with a near-perfect Australian accent), and having enjoyed the privileges of a Western upbringing, including cricket, sail boating and college, Saroo still has an emptiness inside; a longing for home and family. Not that he was ungrateful to his adoptive parents but the heart wants what the heart wants. And thanks to the internet, he was able to go in search of the family he lost.
Adapted by Luke Davies from Saroo Brierly's autobiography, A Long Way Home, the major problem with Lion, an impressive debut feature from Garth Davis, is that the second half of the film -- where the adult Saroo searches for his family -- is less interesting, less involving than the first half. Alternatively, we're right there, emotionally invested as young Saroo tries desperately to return to his mother, brother and sister.
Perhaps that is because of the 'child in peril' dynamic (and the irresistable cuteness of Sunny Pawar) rather than any fault of Dev Patel's fine performance. Rooney Mara (as Saroo's girlfriend), Wenham, and especially Kidman are also good in the second half of the film. And any quibbles or misgivings are washed away by the film's emotional climax.
It may be a small world after all, but Lion has a big, big heart.