I try my damnedest to make mental notes of good trailers I see when I'm at the theatre. I recall seeing the Lion trailer a few times and each time I told myself I'd have to see this film. I finally got to see it yesterday and it was as great as I suspected it might be. It was so great that I figured I should spread the word through the site!
To summarize without ruining the film, Lion is a "based on a true story" film about being lost and found. A young boy is separated from his brother and subsequently his family. He spends the next twenty-five years finding his way back to them. The film documents this journey as it spans multiple continents and spreads over two decades. His separation begins at a train station after his brother went to inquire about some night work. The young boy wakes from slumber on a bench at the station to find it deserted. Lost and alone, he wanders onto a train and is taken some two thousand kilometres away to a different state with India. The little boy ends up on the run and is eventually taken into a foster care system where he finds himself adopted by an Australian family. At this time, the movie jumps ahead I believe twenty years and shows his grief over being lost as an adult. Through the creation of programs like Google Earth, the main character is eventually able to find his way back home after an onscreen documenting of about five years.
The film is half set in India and half in Australia. We are given subtitles for the time in India and it switches between Hindi and Bengali as the boy travels between two provinces within the country. Saroo, the main character, is portrayed as a child by Sunny Pawar and as an adult by Dev Patel. Admittedly, the latter is what enticed me to watch this film. I've seen most every film he's been in and he's that damned good. A standout performance would be as Neal Sampat in The Newsroom. It was a really great series (other than the lukewarm ending). Saroo's adoptive parents are played by David Wenham (the ridiculously cartoony villain in Iron Fist) and Nicole Kidman. Along the way, an adoptive brother and girlfriend are onscreen as the final characters in the "Australian main cast". I'm admittedly not up on Indian cinema, so I didn't recognize any of the actors in the "Indian main cast". Suffice it to say, it certainly was a small cast of named characters.
Apparently this film did quite well in regards to critical acclaim and awards. I can understand why. Throughout the film, arpeggiated piano scoring serves to tie things together. The filming is quite lovely as well as it manages to capture the beauty of India while never taking away from the urgency that we as the audience are meant to feel. I'm fortunate in that I watch most films with subtitles and as a result seeing a film only half filmed in English didn't throw me off at all. The first half of the film I felt didn't rely on dialogue to get across what the lost boy was feeling regardless. I guess that's the power it holds. If I'd have watched it with no subtitles, I wouldn't have felt like I was losing anything. In reading a bit about the film, the girlfriend character (portrayed by Rooney Mara) was a culmination of various ladies that the real Saroo had been involved with over the years. Some photographs are displayed before the final credits that document the real journey and provide even more opportunity to relate to the story. I'd be lying if I said this film didn't get to me. I welled up at the end when Saroo finally made it home. Throughout the film, I related to the loss he was going through. The film delivered some powerful emotions without ever being heavy-handed or unnecessarily dramatic. I like Indian film more and more, and Lion is no different. It's not the usual comedy or action that I write about, but good cinema is good cinema. I really enjoyed this film and recommend it.