A fascinating and compelling true story of survival and serendipity, “Lion” delivers the best cinematic advert for Google since “The Internship”.
Finding himself utterly lost after accidentally falling asleep on an out of service cross country train, five year old Saroo finds himself alone on the streets of 1980s Calcutta. Eventually he is taken in by an orphanage and, unable to identify his home, he is adopted by an Australian family and taken overseas. Once grown, however, Saroo is haunted by the memory of the family he left behind.
It’s become something of a cliché to point out how much of the modern technology we take for granted – especially the internet or smart phones – would render the plots of most of our favourite movies redundant so it’s refreshing to have a story where the presence of technology is not only a benefit to the story but integral to its success. Were it not true, the importance of Google Earth in helping Saroo find his childhood village would seem a little twee but Director Garth Davis keeps the drama sincere and grounded to counteract the lucky coincidences necessary to the tale. The stark, almost Dickensian contradictions of modern day India are brought into sharp relief as the film deftly intertwines Saroo’s present day search with his reminiscences of the months spent homeless and alone, although the script takes care to stay doggedly focused on the personal story and stakes, leaving the larger moral and social themes raised in the background.
Dev Patel delivers a fine performance, acutely realising Saroo’s increasingly toxic cocktail of survivor’s and liberal guilt as he pushes his adoptive family away and isolates himself with his laptop to continue his obsessive search. There are great supporting performances from the likes of Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara but the real revelation is Sunny Pawar, the young indian actor who plays young Saroo. With a performance which rivals that of Jacob Tremblay’s astonishing breakthrough in “Room”, Patel may give the film its drama but it’s through Pawar it gets its heart.
Moving, uplifting and powerfully bittersweet in its denouement, “Lion” succeeds as a biopic and a story of the importance and power of family.