Garth Davis’ debut feature follows an adopted Indian boy who, using only a handful of memories (and Google Earth), sets out to find his long-lost family. Brace yourself, because this film packs so much emotional weight is gives Marley and Me a run for its money.
The film follows a five-year-old boy, Saroo, who in 1986 was separated from his brother at a train station in the middle of the night, only to wake up 1600km away, lost in the big world of Calcutta. Young Saroo must learn to survive before being adopted by a kindly Australian couple (played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). 20 years later, we find Saroo comfortable and grounded, only to be unsettled by the uncertainty of his past as the memories begin creeping back.
It is how Garth Davis deals with Saroo’s memories that brings an extra layer of beauty to this already-astonishing story. Saroo is constantly plagued and almost guided by his memories, to the extent he is willing to sacrifice his ambitions and happy home life, teaching an interesting perspective about how we see and formulate our own ideas of the past.
"Saroo’s memories bring an extra layer of beauty to this already-astonishing story"
The way in which the Past, the Present, India and Australia are drawn together is expertly handled by both cast and director. Young Saroo is the sweetest kid I’ve ever seen on screen and modern day Saroo, played by Dev Patel, is as fiery as his turbulent past and both mothers are infinitely delicate and loving. Patel and Kidman are fully deserving of their respective awards nominations, while Rooney Mara provides reliably sensitive support from the sidelines.
Lion may not be a piece of revolutionary cinema but it carefully avoids the pitfalls of similar stories and deserves to be seen because of that. Sob-inducing but not soppy, subtle but gripping, all Garth Davis must do is tell the story simply and let the story speak for itself beauty, letting its strength overwhelm you, and boy, does it deliver.
More like this: Wild (2014)