Movie Review: 'Lion'
Opening: 17 January 2017
Cast: Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Nicole Kidman, Abhishek Bharate, Divian Ladwa, Priyanka Bose, Deepti Naval, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sunny Pawar
Director: Garth Davis
Producers: Iain Canning, Angie Fielder, Emile Sherman
Some films make a huge box office killing and a few months later no one cares, it’s worn out over played and out dated. Although this is not the fate of every blockbuster extravaganza, it’s a common occurrence. More often the celluloid stories that stand the test of time are those that don’t make a lot of noise on release and slowly creep into the zeitgeist. This Lion is sleeping and when it wakes it will be recognised as a modern classic.
Not to be written off as a “human interest artsy piece better off seen “on-demand at home in a few months’ time”, Lion must be seen in theatres to make the most of its luscious sights and sounds. Director Garth Davis has captured some of the toughest rural and urban sides of India at their most beautiful. For the first part of the story he makes it clear to us that this India is home to the young boy Saroo, where he lives with his brother Guddu, their mother and sister. An unfortunate set of decisions lead to Saroo being stranded far from home and with no way of finding home; Saroo is lost! Eventually he is adopted by a couple in Tasmania and does well in embracing this new reality. He is old enough to remember his family and years later his anguish for answers stirs and he begins a costly investigation to find his first family.
Young Saroo is played by Sunny Pawar. His breath-taking performance sets the scene for the later story as he secures our interest with his innocence and good nature. However, what we really need to talk about is Dev Patel. I have not been much of a fan of his since he first appeared on British TV in Channel 4’s Skins – he wasn’t great then and things did not get a lot better through Slumdog Millionaire, Last Airbender or the The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. But that. Has. Changed! Picking up seamlessly where Pawar leaves Saroo, Dev Patel delivers the performance of his career and is sure to make many new fans after Lion’s release. Nuanced, controlled and sensitive, something has clicked in Patel and I think a more promising future now lies ahead for him.
Fabulous casting choices around the two main actors such as Mara Rooney, Nicole Kidman and newcomer Abhishek Bharate (as Guddu) give the leads so much to work off that the rewards come thick and fast for the audience. A particularly touching scene between Patel and Kidman had me almost openly weeping like a newly crowned prom queen – even the embarrassment couldn’t stop me.
Knowing that it is very closely based on a true story gives it a power that perhaps some other similar movies lack, but there is also no mistaking the craftsmanship, love and interest in the story that have been poured into it. An irresistible twist of life affirming and heart-breaking, Lion is a surprisingly great movie for the winter months and will warm even the coldest souls.