Thursday, December 29, 2016

Lion

Starring: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, Sunny Pawar
Director: Garth Davis

Running Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes
Rating: PG-13

"Lion" is a wonderfully refreshing, feel-good movie, that's bound to make you tear up a few times. This film is uplifting, optimistic and although it's a bit predictable, it's a great reminder that the truth is often stranger and more exciting than fiction. "Lion" tells the true story of Saroo, a little boy who gets lost in India and is adopted by an Australian couple. When he gets older, his curiosity about his roots leads him back to India, in search of his birth family. Everything about this film is beautiful, and it's my favorite of the season so far.

The cinematography is stunning, as we're introduced to India through shots of crowded streets and tiny houses, while we see Australia's gorgeous coastline and sandy beaches. The precious and talented Sunny Pawar plays 5-year-old Saroo, who is obsessed with his older brother and helps him do odd jobs that pay very little. One night on a job at a train station, Saroo wanders off, and it's heart-breaking when he wakes up on a train heading nearly 1,000 miles away from home. Not only is language a huge barrier when he arrives in Calcutta, but Saroo doesn't correctly remember his town's name, or know the name of his mother. The kid isn't helpless, though. It's hard to imagine how he survived in the streets, but there were thousands of kids doing the same alongside him. He is sent to an orphanage where shortly afterwards, an Australian couple named Sue and John Brierley (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham) file for his adoption.

Dev Patel plays Saroo 23 or so years later, and let me just say - Dev has beefed up from his "Slumdog Millionaire" days. Hello biceps! Saroo is close to his family, having taken on their Aussie accent and helping raise his unstable, also adopted-from-India brother, but it's not until he meets Lucy (Rooney Mara) that he begins questioning his identity and longing to find his Indian roots. Mara doesn't have much of a role here, but the two have good on-screen chemistry. Thanks to Google Earth and modern technology, Saroo sets down a rabbit hole to find his family in India, whom he knows practically nothing about. What ensues is a miracle.

It's wonderful hearing Nicole's natural Aussie accent, and she is getting buzz for her role as the epitome of a strong, yet emotional mother. This character is excellent for her. I would love for Patel to start getting some real leading roles (not just ones about Indian men, or characters from India running a hotel or looking to leave their small Indian hometown. Rant over.) The score is familiar, but very good, and it's difficult to hold back tears during the last 15 minutes. The ending credits even feature clips and photos of the real life Saroo and his families. The film is named "Lion" for a reason that will give you goosebumps, but I'll let you go see it and learn why for yourself.

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