Film Review: “Lion”

Starring: Sunny Pawar, Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman
Directed by: Garth Davis
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 2 hrs 18 mins
The Weinstein Company

Our Score: 5 out of 5 Stars

I’ll admit up front that I am a sucker for films that deal with adoption. I was adopted when I was 18-months old. Inspired by the film “Antoine Fisher” I eventually tracked down my birth family, learning that I was originally the middle of 11 children. That’s right – thanks to a movie I found 10 brothers and sisters. So when I learned that adoption plays a large part of the film “Lion,” I was anxious to see it. And I’m so glad I did.

It is the mid 1980’s when we first meet the young boy Saroo (Sunny Pawar in an amazing performance). Saroo idolizes his older brother, Guddu (Abhishek Bharate). He follows him around and helps him steal coal from the mining trains that pass their small village. They sell the coal for money to help their mother, who works as a laborer carrying rocks! Yes, even in the 80’s people still got paid for carrying rocks. One night, against his better judgement, Guddu agrees to take Saroo with him. The boys get separated and Saroo finds himself on a train taking a journey that takes two days to end. Now alone in the bustling city of Calcutta he must live on the streets. Unable to speak the language (he does not speak Hindi) and unable to find his village featured anywhere on a map, he is placed in an orphanage and eventually adopted by a family in Australia. In the blink of an eye he goes from poverty to wealth and grows into a well-adjusted young man. But he never forgets his past and the family he left behind.

Powerful. That is how I’d best describe “Lion.” In a way I consider myself lucky that I was adopted as a baby. I had no idea the loving family I had been taken from. After meeting my brothers and sisters I learned that I was the family “urban legend.” The oldest child, my brother Anthony, would tell the others that they had a brother “out there” somewhere. When I met Anthony he told me that for quite a while after my birth and subsequent disappearance he would sneak out at night and look for me. My only memories from my youth are of myself and my adoptive parents. To have been age five when I was separated from my family would have been beyond traumatic. Young Mr. Pawar gives an award-worthy performance as the young Saroo. As does Dev Patel, who plays Saroo as a young adult. This is a film made up of moments. Whether it’s Saroo with his girlfriend (Rooney Mara), or his adoptive parents (Kidman and David Wenham) or just him alone with his thoughts, each moment builds on the next. Bring your Kleenex!

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