Eighty-thousand children go missing each year in India. Saroo Brierley, author of the autobiography, “A Long Way Home,” was one, and he tells about his incredible journey from India to Australia and back again. The result of the adapted indie drama, Lion, is a well-intended attempt which utilizes a “been there, done that” approach to prove how the community can pitch in to help families across the globe.
Sure enough, being a depressingly heartwarming weepie, Lion starts on a heartbreaking note. Saroo as an adorable little five-year-old oversleeps and loses his way in a dark train station, separated from his older brother. He hops onto a train and arrives at another station far away, and sees no options available other than to sleep on cardboard with other lost kids. The stay gets cut short though, as several kidnappers force him out. He then comes across new parts of India’s culture he never knew existed beyond his mother’s work as a rock-hauler. A hospitable Hindu couple helps Saroo out until he runs away out of desperation. Soon, with hopes of locating his parents, an orphanage takes him in, where beatings occur daily.
Eye-swelling in these first moments are guaranteed while watching a vulnerable little tike lose his innocence before reaching his full development of memory cells. When also considering how everyone in India speaks in their native tongue with English subtitles, an extra step authenticates the true story. However I must admit: the boy cast as Saroo, Sunny Pawar, acts precisely how any young actor would in his first role. Nobody cheers him on because of his talent, but because of his cuteness.
A kind Australian couple eventually adopts Saroo, with some English lessons included to help him with the transition. As investing as it all feels, the very next event is, “20 years later.” So did nothing interesting happen within twenty years? This sort of leap in time happens constantly throughout the picture, limiting the story possibilities and minimizing Saroo’s motives of returning to India. So proof exists in why Lion would prefer to tug on your heartstrings over structuring the story to deserve the countless awards it campaigned so hard for.
Speaking of awards, my complements go to the Academy Award nominated performances of Nicole Kidman (The Hours, Moulin Rouge!) and Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire). Both portrayals standout satisfactorily well, carrying the second half of the film to maintain the audiences’ tears. Although I ought to complain about Kidman’s distractingly obvious wig. Yes, I realize they needed to cast a talented actress, and yes, I understand she needs to look like the real-life counterpart, so why not cast someone whose natural hair looks like the real life counterpart? Or maybe dye Kidman’s hair? Oh, right. They needed an already nominated actress to guarantee a nomination, and she has to still look pretty in her natural silky blonde hair for those expensive interviews and campaigns.
Yet like any other Oscar-bait picture, the production crew still put in tremendous effort. Saroo’s growth into manhood blooms to life through various scenic shots meant to highlight memories of home, such as moths illuminated by the sun, or the infinite route of a railroad track. Then as things turn more personal and distanced from youth, the camera pulls in closer to the human face. The minds and hearts of everyone involved were in the right place, even if Lion turns out no different in quality than the summer released indie crowd-pleaser.
Clearly, Lion will fall out of the public’s memory after the 2017 Oscars ceremony. But the #LionHeart campaign it started will last much longer. It exists to raise donations to benefit the 80,000 lost children in India, and worldwide. I encourage you to offer them a small donation; even just a little can travel a long ways to make a difference.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
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