Monday, March 25, 2019
Movie Monday: Lion
As the movie opens, little Saroo, played by Sunny Pawar, is five years old, growing up with his mother, older brother, and baby sister in a small village in India. When his brother, Guddu, heads out one night to make money at the local train yard, Saroo begs him to let him come along. Against his better judgement, Guddu agrees and tells Saroo to wait on a bench near the tracks until he comes back because Saroo is so sleepy. Saroo wakes up disoriented and looking for Guddu, so he boards an empty train, calling his brother's name. He falls asleep on the train and wakes the next day to find the train is moving - and still empty. He is stuck on the moving train for days until it finally arrives in Calcutta. Saroo doesn't understand the Bengali language in Calcutta and no one understands him, so he wanders around the far-away city, searching for his family in vain. Eventually, he is adopted by a kind Australian couple, Sue, played by Nicole Kidman, and John, played by David Wenham. He grows up in Australia and has a happy childhood, alongside another Indian boy they adopt. As an adult, Saroo, played by Dev Patel (of Slumdog Millionaire fame), starts having flashbacks from his earliest years. He remembers his mother and his siblings, and viscerally recalls the anguish of being separated from them and of trying to find Guddu. Saroo begins a virtual journey using Google Earth to find his lost family of origin, a task that is made even harder by the fact that his young child memories are not entirely reliable...but he has distinct memories of his family and the tiny town they lived in, and he searches across India, along the train routes, to try to find the town. Saroo becomes obsessed with this impossible quest until it takes over his life.
This is one of those "truth is stranger than fiction" stories that you might think unbelievable if it was made up. It is true, though, and that makes it all the more remarkable. The acting here is excellent, from the tiny, adorable Sunny Pawar playing young Saroo to Dev Patel's gut-wrenching portrayal of an adult tortured by memories of his lost family. And, of course, Kidman is especially good as his loving mother who wants to support him but fears how his search will end. It's an absolutely compelling narrative (hence, its many nominations and awards for adapted screenplay), and the cinematography is jaw-dropping, especially the scenes in India and the contrast between the poverty there and the wealth he is adopted into in Australia. Lion is a poignant, heart-wrenching, and inspiring story of one man's undeniable drive to find his lost family. It deserved all of its accolades - and more.
Lion is currently available on Netflix or to stream on Amazon, starting at $2.99, or on DVD (only $3.99 through Amazon or at your local library). I don't usually watch movies twice, but this is one I could definitely watch again and again.