Lion is superbly inspirational and it has Oscar baits all over it. The story sounds so out of this world that part of my mind thought it is a case of God playing a cruel trick just to witness the emotional devastation it would cause. Then the ultimate act of redemption is so moving that God will lift His finger off the button of mass destruction of the world.
A five-year-old Indian boy Saroo gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.
The first half of the film is simply the best Hindi film I have seen this year that didn’t hail from Bollywood. IMHO this has been a disappointing year for Bollywood and thank goodness for Lion for showing the way. The effortless acting by the two child-newcomers, Sunny Pawar and Abhishek Bharate, is so great that I didn’t even for one minute think they were acting. I love how Garth Davis captured the Indian cities, and it is even more remarkable that Lion is his first feature film. The city is portrayed like a lurking monster with different terrifying elements out to devour the innocent children. There is also an air of mysticism about it. The direction is assured and never heavy handed. However this is a film of two halves.
The first half is so amazing that it is almost a futile task to be able sustain the wondrous energy in the second half. However, Dev Patel as the adult Saroo, demonstrates superb range; he has really blossomed as an actor since Slumdog Millionaire (2008). The problem with it is that it is too pre-defined and you would already know how it would go. Even though the narrative goes through the usual tropes and hits the typical emotional beats with a shoehorned romantic angle, Davis makes a creative choice to skim through and tip-toe round all the usual traumatic scenes, giving the film a refreshing feel. You know exactly what you will see at the end, but kudos to the filmmaker who still succeeds in never cheapening the journey and for making you an emotional wreck of a blubber.
When the shameless weeping stopped, I felt my soul displace and move to a different place. This Lion roars resoundingly! The search for identity and home is absorbing and never boring. Don’t forget to bring tissue and hankies, and remember there is no shame in crying for it is what makes us human beings.
4 / 5