Lion tells two true stories. The first takes place in India, where a young boy named Saroo (played by Sunny Pawar) wakes up in a deserted train station to find that his older brother, Guddu (Abhishek Bharate), has not returned as promised. Saroo goes out in search of Guddu and falls asleep on a decommissioned train. Two days later, he is over a thousand kilometres away, with no knowledge of how to get back. Saroo doesn’t even know the name of his mother, and when he tells people where he is from, they can find no such place on the map. (The rest of my description carries a spoiler alert) Eventually Saroo finds himself in a scary orphanage. But a social worker offers him the chance to be adopted by Sue and John Brierley (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham), a couple in Australia, where he is joined by another Indian boy.
The second story takes place twenty years later, most of it in Australia. Saroo, now played by Dev Patel, has just started a course on hotel management and falls in love with a fellow student (Rooney Mara). His ‘brother’, Mantosh (Divian Ladwa) is struggling with mental health issues, putting a lot of stress on their mother. But when Saroo’s classmates ask him about his real family, he becomes obsessed with finding his real mother and brother in India.
Lion, which has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Supporting roles for Patel and Kidman, is a beautiful film, has an excellent score and does indeed have fine acting by all concerned, most notably by the young Pawar.
The first story’s details are critical for giving us an insight into what Saroo remembers of his early years in India, but they take up so much time that there is no opportunity to see what happens to Saroo during those intervening twenty years. This jump of so many years, without providing much context for what happened, makes it much harder to fully appreciate the older Saroo’s story. There seems to be no solution to this problem, as the second story has few superfluous scenes, but it must nevertheless be seen as a flaw because of the way it cuts down on character development and emotional engagement.
Directed by Garth Davis and written by Saroo Brierley himself, Lion is an inspiring and entertaining film that gets ***+. My mug is up and I again recommend this film to everyone.