Lion: Moving True Story About One Special Indian Orphan
Based on the non-fiction book A Long Way Home by Larry Buttrose, Lion tells the incredible true story of loss and triumph surrounding one Saroo Brierley; an Australian man who goes on a long journey of tracing back his roots and locating his home in India where he was born. Adapted to the screen by Luke Davis, Lion, although a little jumbled in its second half, has everything you need from a poignant, awards-preying drama, with the story offering plenty of moments of both beauty and sadness.
The film begins in 1986 in the city of Khandwa, India where five-year-old Saroo Khan finds himself separated from his older brother and ending up on a train that takes him one thousand miles from home to the busy streets of Kolkata. Finding himself completely alone, we follow Saroo as he tries to seek shelter and scrounge for food while trying his best to evade child abductors. He soon finds himself placed in an orphanage before eventually being whisked off to Tasmania, Australia and adopted by loving couple, Sue (Kidman) and John Brierley (Wenham).
Twenty years later, we see Saroo as a grown man who has led a relatively comfortable life but, at the same time as someone who was never quite complete as a person. After leaving home to study in Melbourne, Saroo soon finds himself implanted with the idea of tracing his family and roots by using the then new Google Earth technology.
The first part of Garth Davis’s directorial debut – a project which the filmmaker approaches with incredible sensitivity and compassion – is spent with the young version of Saroo – played by the adorable and the incredibly talented Sunny Pawar– as he battles his way through the seemingly unforgiving streets of India. Shot by Zero Dark Thirty cinematographer, Greig Fraser, there’s composition and beauty in every single frame captured, with Davis managing to build just enough angst and desperation which accompany Saroo’s desperate search for his brother and a way back home.
However, the movie almost grinds to a complete halt once the second act comes around, which lacks that same energy. Luckily, Patel brings his A-game and delivers one of his finest – and definitely most serious – performances of his career, capturing Saroo’s strength and guilt for leading a relatively privileged life whilst the rest of his family is left behind in India perfectly.
As the final act comes knocking and the imminent reunion inches closer, the movie once again regains its magic; it never manipulates the audience, mastering a tear-jerking finale that feels natural and compelling and never, ever forced.