Thoughts on Lion (2016)

SPOILERS

I first heard about Lion in 2015 when David Wenham spoke about it at his Melbourne Oz Comic Con panel. I was intrigued and had been waiting for its release ever since – I just didn’t realise that it would take so long!

Still, it was worth the wait – as the movie is as good as everyone says it is. Yes, it does have its dull moments, but hey, that’s life. Deal with it. It’s a long movie – at two hours – but the payoff is worth it. I didn’t shed a tear until the end when we get to see the real life Saroo introducing his adopted family to real life family. It’s emotional. It’s real. It’s raw. And it pulled on the heartstrings of everyone in the cinema. Make sure you stay til the very end as a lot of questions are answered in those last couple of minutes of the film (like, the name Lion comes from the meaning of Saroo’s name).

Lion is about a young boy named Saroo (played by the absolutely adorable, Sunny Pawar – give this boy an Oscar!) and his mother, sister and older brother, Guddu. After accidentally falling asleep on a train to Calcutta, lost, thousands of miles from his hometown; Saroo is finally adopted by an Australian couple in Tasmania. We get to see about a year in the life of young Saroo in Australia, before we see Saroo’s now adult and prosperous life. After moving to Melbourne to study Hotel Management (where he meets his future-girlfriend, Lucy); at 30 years old, he begins his Google Earth search to find his hometown and the family he left behind.

The thing that makes this movie so powerful is the fact that it is based on real life events. Even a short scene in the movie involving Saroo’s natural instincts to run away from a couple involved in sex trafficking is such a horrifying ordeal to think of. I haven’t read the autobiography, A Long Way Home, which the movie is based on, but I’d like to compare. I would also like to know if Saroo did kept seeing the ghost (let’s say) of his brother wherever he want – surely this was just a visual reminder of his family.

David Wenham (as John) is under-utilised in the film – we don’t see much character development nor interaction, but it’s not really needed in the film. We get the feeling that he is always there, but, at least displayed in the film, Saroo’s relationship with his adopted Mum, Sue, (as played by Nicole Kidman) is much stronger. Perhaps this was an intentional move, or it could just boil down to only ever having a Mother-Son relationship in childhood (as far as we know, there was no male influence in his life, apart from his older brother who hardly counts as a father figure).

Rooney Mara, as Lucy, is kind of just there. Apart from one scene where there seems to be some chemistry, their relationship really is a tad ho-hum. I understand she is based on a series of girlfriends real-life Saroo had, so her identity isn’t as strong as other characters – but meh – in my opinion, she doesn’t add much to the overall story. Saroo’s relationship with his family is, and should be, the focal point. As Saroo’s search continues, his relationship begins to crumble, so I guess she was there to show that decaying of his social normality, as he doesn’t inform his family of his search intentions right away.

By the way, I had no idea that Dev Patel isn’t actually an Australian – his accent is spot on!. Also when did he get so good looking?! Seems like he went from the scrawny boy to a man overnight (although I did only just see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel just the other week, so that may have something to do with it) …  I am a sucker for long hair though!

In conclusion, I very much enjoyed the film. It’s not a movie that everyone is bound to like, but if you have a heart and an open mind, you’re guaranteed to take more away from this movie than you’ll first realise.

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