Garth Davis’ Lion is a genuinely emotional drama with great performances from its cast.
After becoming separated from his older brother, Saroo finds himself alone on the streets of Calcutta. Dodging the danger all around him, Saroo is eventually adopted by an Australian couple. Years later, Saroo hopes to track down the family he was separated from…
Based on Saroo Brierley’s book about his experiences, Lion is formidable drama. Director Garth Davis handles his subject deftly. The film does not fall into the trap of sentimental, TV-movie style melodrama. Given the narrative, this could easily have happened. Instead, Davis gives Saroo’s story the weight and passion that it deserves.
Lion does not jump to Saroo as an adult, after a brief introduction. Instead, the film fully explores what Saroo goes through as a lost child. These events are given the time they deserve, and emphasise what a difficult journey he goes through. In a wider scale, these sequences uncover the perilous realities of street children in India.
Scenes later in the film exhibit the comfortable life Saroo lives as an adult. These serve as a stark contrast to his early experiences. Lion exhibits Saroo’s discomfort with his privilege, when considering his early years. His adoptive brother Mantosh functions to reveal the other side of international adoption. This character immediately struggles, and ultimately leads a troubled life. His ticks hark back to what is seen in the classroom, hinting at a sad underlying cause.
Saroo’s relationship with his girlfriend and family is impacted by his strong desire to find his home. The journey of the protagonist is depicted with thoughtfulness. Lion is emotional with good reason; it never feels overwrought. The film is beautifully shot, and the score complements the visuals well. Dev Patel offers a endearing performance as Saroo, whilst Sunny Pawar is appealing as the young version of the character. Nicole Kidman reminds viewers why she is such a successful actress with one scene in particular.
Lion is an affirming story which does not shy away from some harsh realities. A fantastic watch.
Lion is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.