Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle


Grade : A- Year : 2016 Director : Garth Davis Running Time : 1hr 58min Genre :
Movie review score

When it gets started, “Lion” looks like just another Oscar-ready film from the Weinstein Company playbook. It stays that way for about an hour, even though it’s based on a true story and a best-selling book. But then, something triggers Saroo’s (Dev Patel) memory, and he realizes something he didn’t remember…where he came from. At this point, first-time feature director Garth Davis’s approach to Luke Davies’s screenplay (adapted by the novel from Saroo Brierley) begins to elevate, and a generic story of a little-known issue in India becomes a powerful study in reconciliation of who we are with who we were. You see, Saroo, while waiting for his brother (Guddu, played by Abhishek Bharate) at a train station one night, falls asleep, does not see his brother, and finds himself on an empty passenger train. No one is there to hear his screams for help, and after a couple of days, finds himself on the other side of the country, where he does not speak the language. He is five years old. He gets picked up by adults to take street children, with no families, and place them for adoption. Saroo is adopted by a couple in Australia (Nicole Kidman, doing very good work, and David Wenham), who a year later, adopt another Indian street child, although this one (Mantosh, played as a child by Keshav Jadhav) has a harder time adjusting, and also inflicts self-abuse. Cut to 20 years later, and Saroo has thrived in his life in Australia, and is working towards hotel management, where he meets Lucy (Rooney Mara). But something nags at him, and at a party thrown by a friend, he has a sense memory, and his search for who he was before his life was turned upside down begins. Even though the film follows a very typical formula in its narrative for the first hour, Davis’s film is elegantly, and poetically, put together. Once Saroo, played perfectly by Patel, in probably his best work to date, has his memory jogged, his search for his roots, and the way he struggles with how that would effect the only family he’s known for 25 years, is riveting and powerful to watch. It’s a coming-of-age story, but not like so many others over the years, as we get real insight into Saroo’s memories and ideas that lead him home. The emotions displayed when he finally arrives there lands with an impact few movies can muster. It’s a journey well worth taking.

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