Lion (PG)

In a Word: Uplifting

Lion

 

Lion2

 

STORY IN TWO PARTS: Sunny Pawar stars as the five-year-old Saroo (top) and Dev Patel as him around the age of 30.

 

"Director Garth Davis has made a sensitive and haunting film, managing to capture a strong sense of Saroo’s painful journey as both a young child and a man, across two eras, two continents, and two families. Not an easy task for a movie that, as Davis has said, is 'primarily about an online search'."

Every year more than 80,000 children go missing in India leaving them open to all sorts of exploitation and abuse.

Lion, based on a true story recounted in the memoir A Long Way Home, tells what happened to one of them and while it may seem counter-intuitive to say that this is an uplifting film immediately even as we relay that horrifying fact, this story is very much one of hope – that futures can be changed and that against the tide, a new, better, story can be written for these lost children.

The story is divided into two parts, the first of which centres on five-year-old Saroo. A child (played by Sunny Pawar) from a poor family in rural India watched over by his sole parent mother Kamla (Priyanka Bose), he is out with his brother Guddu (Abishek Bharate) one night when he accidentally ends up on a train which whisks him more than a 1,000 kilometres away to Kolkata.

There, unable to find his way home again, he lives a life on the streets, narrowly escaping a life of sexual slavery before eventually ending up in a children’s home. But danger remains and in what should be a safe place, abuse – sexual, physical and mental - is apparently rife. It’s only through the work of a woman named Mrs Sood (Deepti Naval) that he eventually escapes when he is adopted by Tasmanians John and Sue Brierley (David Wenham and Nicole Kidman).

Life is strange yet somewhat idyllic for Saroo at first but things change when the Brierleys adopt a second child from India, Mantosh (Keshav Jadhav). It’s immediately obvious Mantosh has suffered mightily and we’re quickly made aware that this will have a major impact on the family’s life.

Part two of the story kicks off as we jump ahead 25 years. Against the backgroup of a family which is already facing some tough issues as Mantosh (now played by Divian Ladwa) continues to struggle with life, Saroo (now played by Dev Patel) finds himself increasingly haunted by memories from his past.

He embarks on what becomes an obsessive search using Google Earth for the place he once called home and the family he once had. It’s a quest that takes over his life and becomes a painful journey into reclaiming a past which lies, seemingly, always just out of reach.

Director Garth Davis has made a sensitive and haunting film, managing to capture a strong sense of Saroo’s painful journey as both a young child and a man, across two eras, two continents, and two families. Not an easy task for a movie that, as Davis has said, is “primarily about an online search”.

There’s solid acting performances all around – Kidman manages to provide some insight into what is it that drove the Brierleys to take on two children from so far away and Wenham, too, is well cast, although we're only given a much more limited look into his life. Rooney Mara also does a good job as Saroo’s girlfriend Lucy but ultimately this film succeeds or fails on the back of the performances by Patel and Pawar – and, at this point needless to say, both put in powerful showings.

Inspirational and certain to bring a tear to your eye, Lion will stir you mightily about the fate of these ‘lost’ children. And, of course, this could include supporting one of the many organisations that are helping children in India and around the world right now – as part of the #LionHeart campaign, you can make a donation to support the work of organisations like Magic Bus, CHILDLINE India and Railway Children.

A must see.