There are good story's. There are good films. Sometimes, in spite of all the good endeavours of the screen writer, director and cast, the two do not work together. With this film they do. The story being real is no guarantee either. All too often the truth is lost amid a confusion of self-satisfied sentimentality. Not so here. The acting is of the finest calibre, especially that of five year old Sunny Pawar who manages with a maturity beyond his years to convey the sense of being lost, of being utterly alone in a very strange place, of being hunted, of being terrified by events yet battling on. It is a performance worthy of any seasoned professional. Not to elevate Sunny so soon in his career but his sterling acting on "Lion" will now and forever be the yardstick by which all future performances will be judged.
Sunny's fellow actors ain't half bad either.
What I like about the story told isn't just that it is real but rather that it features an unknown. We get plenty of celebrity films or films of individuals made famous by the events that have taken place in their lives but rarely are we privileged to learn of another's life story when that other is someone we have never heard of.
The story retells events that took place in the mid-eighties. Two Asian brother's, living life in utter poverty, are forced to steal coal by way of earning food. One night older brother Guddu reluctantly takes his younger sibling Saroo with him. Saroo become incredibly tired and lays down on a bench at a railway station. Desperate to pilfer more goods so as to provide food for their family, Guddu leaves his baby brother behind telling him he'll return soon. He never returns. We only find out why at the films end. Upon waking up Saroo clambers aboard a decommissioned passenger train which leaves the Bengali town way behind as it hurtles some 1,600 kilometers away to Calcutta.
No one in Calcutta understands the little boy's Bengali accent. He is a child alone in a very strange land. So alike his own yet so very different. The authorities at a loss to locate the town the child says he comes from shunt Saroo around as they attempt to find his parents and the brother of who he speaks so lovingly. When asked the name of his mother he can only answer "Mummy."
Calcutta is depicted as being Dickensian with child abductors stealing children from off the street before selling them into servitude. It is a grim reality that Saroo faces. Eventually, an Australian couple adopt him. He is flown out to Australia where his life begins anew.
Decades pass and Saroo, now in his early thirties, is haunted by his pas. His memories, vague now at best, plague him. He cannot forget his brothers nme even if his brothers face is forgotten. Nor can he forget his mother. The thought of how they must feel with their younger sibling-son snatched away from them without explanation is too harrowing for his mind to cope with. He begins his search by using, as we all do nowadays, the internet specifically Google Earth.
Nicole Kidman's role as Saroo's adoptive mother brings out the very best in her. How she is able to cry without a hysterical outburst is quite remarkable. Her acting is effortless, subtle with all emotions held in check. Simply amazing.
Dev Patel also supplies a terrific performance as does Rooney Mara. All in all a fine film.
Squid gives it Four Stars as do I.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.