Saturday, January 28, 2017

Film Review: LION

Saroo, lost and alone as a child.
First of all, bring tissues. An over-the-top tearjerker from start to finish, Lion is nevertheless a valuable investment of your time, in part because it tells a true story. The fact that real people actually lived it saves the film from being just maudlin and melodramatic and elevates it to an important lesson: Life really sucks sometimes, but this too shall pass.

Lion, which has nothing at all to do with lions by the way, is an emotional ride for anyone but the most hardened of souls. The first half of this two-hour long epic is dominated by Saroo, an adorable 5-year-old played with incredible skill by the adorable 8-year-old actor Sunny Prawan. Having gotten separated from his brother and then falling asleep on an empty train that takes him 1,000 miles from home, he wanders the teeming streets of Calcutta, dodging danger and escaping depravity, for two months. His struggle to survive purely on his wits and an occasional bite of food is almost too hard to witness. Finally his luck changes and he is mercifully adopted by a loving Australian couple -- the mother is played by Nicole Kidman in her first likable role -- and whisked off to Tasmania where, after 20 years, he turns into actor Dev Patel as the adult Saroo.

Saroo, still lost and alone, but older.
The film's second half depicts Saroo's growing obsession with his past. Despite having a good life in the present, with a loving girlfriend and a promising career, the constant flashbacks to his traumatic childhood drive him half-crazy with a need to find his birth family in India. It would be unfair to give more details about his undertaking, other than to say that Google Earth is a big help.

With a haunting musical score, deeply affecting performances by the entire cast, stunning aerial shots of India and Australia, and a story that's never less than hold-your-breath gripping, Lion is a masterful film you 'll think about long after you leave the theater.

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