Lion is a beautifully made film that provides an in-depth look into Indian culture and the plight of orphaned children. Based on a true story, this film is a surprisingly effective emotional ride that follows the harrowing tale of a young boy who struggles to find his lost family throughout several periods in his life. Lion also boasts a very strong performance from its two lead actors as well as powerful, dramatic moments. However, despite everything it has going for it, Lion also has a couple of flaws that ultimately keep it from being a truly outstanding movie.
Warning: Potential spoilers ahead.
Two young brothers, Saroo and Gudduh, must work low-paying jobs day and night to support their poor family. One evening, Saroo and Gudduh work an extra late shift. Only 5 years old, Saroo passes out from exhaustion on a bench while Gudduh continues to find more work. When Saroo wakes up, he discovers his brother has not yet returned. As he stumbles along looking for Gudduh, Saroo falls asleep on a train. By the time he wakes up again, the train is miles away from his home. After a couple of days of travel, Saroo finds himself lost in a city that speaks a completely different language from his own. After evading capture several times from human traffickers, Saroo ends up in a run-down orphanage. Defying the odds once more, he is eventually adopted by an Australian family. 30 years later, Saroo is plagued with guilt for leaving his biological family behind. Using Google Earth, Saroo will stop at nothing to find his lineage, even if it means comprimising the relationships he does have.
Lion succeeds as a film for three reasons: its outstanding performances from its two leads, the emotional impact of its storytelling, and the unique look at Indian culture. The movie’s protagonist is played by two actors: Sunny Pawar, who plays young Saroo, and Dev Patel, who plays adult Saroo. Sunny is particularity impressive because he is so young. Child actors often struggle to convey drama, but Sunny provides an amazing performance. Dev, however, is given the difficult task of picking up the second half of the story as well as portraying the deeper emotional struggles of adult life. He does a great job, as his character is both sympathetic and frustrating. Combined, their performances create a magnificently acted story arc. Lion also succeeds in maintaining a good balance of hope and despair. A well-written story should be an emotional roller-coaster, filled with ups and downs. Despite all of the trials Saroo faces, the movie never lets the story get so depressing that it becomes unwatchable. Finally, the fact that Lion was filmed on location means that the audience gets to see India in a way that is outside the stereotypical norm. No Bollywood or goofy gimmicks – just India.
Lion suffers from a very slow pace. The director chose to go with a minimal dialogue script, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, since this film is all drama and very little action, the lack of activity onscreen can cause the story to drag at times. A general audience is going to struggle watching this movie. The other issue this film has is its use of secondary characters, particularly Nicole Kidman and David Wenham. Neither gave a bad performance, but they felt somewhat underutilized.
The Verdict: 8/10
Overall, Lion is a well-made, dramatic story. The standout performances from its leads more than make up for its pacing. At the end of the day, it’s a feel-good story that is definitely worth your time if you are willing to invest in it.
Originally Published: Apr 25, 2017 @ 06:06