Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
…grabs you by the throat from its first frames and never lets you go.
Few films have so powerfully and relentlessly chronicled the pain of displacement as Lion, the debut feature from Australian director, Garth Davis, who so successfully teamed with Jane Campion on the TV mini-series, Top Of The Lake, after making his name with a splashy collection of ads and videos, as well as the stunningly gut-wrenching eighteen-minute short, Alice. His work on Lion is breathtaking, with the nascent auteur crafting both glistening and artful images (in tandem with master cinematographer, Greig Fraser), and a story that grabs you by the throat from its first frames and never lets you go.
Separated from his older brother on the broiling, overcrowded streets of Calcutta, five-year-old Saroo (played by the utterly adorable, heart-melting Sunny Pawar) becomes lost, and through a rolling swathe of bad luck, ends up on a decommissioned train which takes him thousands of kilometres away from his humble home. Too young to know his full name or where he lives, Saroo is forced to live on the streets before eventually landing in a packed-to-the-brim orphanage, from where he is then sent across the world to Tasmania, and into the loving arms of his adopted parents, John and Sue Brierley (David Wenham and Nicole Kidman, both on top form). But despite his happy childhood, the adult Saroo (Dev Patel is truly extraordinary here, hitting nearly every emotional point on the map) feels constantly disconnected from the world around him, despite being a good student and a decent young man. His profound sense of loss ultimately sends him on a long path back to his past.
Lucidly adapted by Australian playwright/screenwriter, Luke Davies (Candy, Life), from the autobiography, A Long Way Home, by Saroo Brierley, Lion powerfully shows that being given a happy, comfortable new life doesn’t necessarily extinguish the memories of your previous, seemingly far less enriching, one. Saroo’s feeling of driftlessness is so palpable that it becomes utterly relatable, which is no mean feat. And while his journey is painful and occasionally difficult to watch (his relationship with Rooney Mara’s fellow college student is particularly frustrating), the payoff is amazing, with Lion boasting a final scene of raw emotion that will literally stay with you forever.