LION, Directed by Emmy Award nominated Garth Davis, is a tear jerking true story based on the memoir by Sarah Brierley A Long Way Home. It harrowingly accounts the story of an Indian child named Saroo, charmingly played by Sunny Pawar who, whilst looking for food with his older brother, Guddu, is accidentally separated from him. After falling asleep on an empty train Saroo wakes to find himself on an endless train ride. After two days, the train finally stops in Kolkata, miles away from his home. Lost in a world he doesn’t know and faced with all manner of perilous situations, Saroo is forced to fight for survival until eventually he is taken into an orphanage, going on to be adopted by childless Australian parents who live in Tasmania.
Played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham, Saroo’s new parents Sue and John Brierley are affectionate towards him and embrace him with a boundary-less devotion. He is later joined by another adopted child, Mantosh (Divian Ladwa) who, unfortunately is psychologically affected, leaving him prone to having random outbursts and fits. This becomes challenging for the Brierleys, but they still show him the attention he needs, unwavering in their parental responsibilities.
The second half of the film focuses on an older Saroo played by Dev Patel, with his tragic childhood memories, seemingly having dissipated over the many years that have past. When he is innocently asked about his roots, during a Q&A session at university, it seems to illuminate those obscure memories he never realised existed. From here he begins a nightmare journey, and recollection into his dramatic past experience, which depletes every ounce of his emotional reserves. Haunted daily; by intense vivid hallucinations of his brother and his mother, who he tearfully recollects calling ‘mummy’, it becomes an obsessive search to try and find out, who he really is and where he’s originally from.
After a friend suggests using Google earth to work out a search radius, to locate his original home, he painstakingly put’s all his time into it, loosing his Job and sabotaging his relationship with his newly found love, Lucy played by Rooney Mara. Saroo’s anguish also affects his relationship with his adopted parents, which leads to a powerful scene between Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel.
Kidman in particular is as good as it gets in the film, and well worth the murmurs of there being an Oscar nomination heading her way. Also noteworthy is the cinematography by Greig Fraser, which is stunning, and captures the magnitude of the various locations. From the expansive, dusty environments of Saroo’s home village, to the hustle and bustle of Kolkata. Tasmania and its picturesque landscapes are also beautifully filmed.
The style of the shots is vast and intimidating, which establish the loneliness that Saroo feels, particularly in the first half of the film, where, as the viewer, you feel like you’re looking through his eyes. It’s easy to get emotionally engaged in his plight, as he uses his intuition and street smarts to guide his path away from danger, and the horrors that seem to appear from around every corner.
The score incorporates stringed instruments, to evoke the sense of loss, and are orchestrated unnervingly throughout, to capture the mood of the picture.
There are moments in the film, which are edited magically to enhance the journey of discovery. For instance, in one particularly stirring scene, where Saroo is using Google earth, and starts to visualise himself running through the village streets as a child, until he reaches home. It’s just a visually poetic moment, and well worth seeing on a cinema screen to gauge the full effect.
Lion premiered at the 2016 London Film Festival.
Director: Garth Davis
Writer(s): Luke Davies (screenplay) | Saroo Brierley & Larry Buttrose (novel)
Cast: Dev Patel, Sunny Pawar, Divian Ladwa, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman
UK Release Date: 26th October 2016