2017 Oscars: ‘LION’ (2016) Movie Review
Never has a movie left me in such utter emotional turmoil while giving me such happiness, as ‘Lion’ has. The story of a lost boy that journeys to find his forgotten home in adulthood, is one of sadness and joy, sometimes both simultaneously. Personally my best movie of 2016, ‘Lion‘ is an immersive journey that goes through different countries, families and relationships with images that will render the viewer helpless in resisting the emotional investment in the story of this lost 5 year old boy.
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Buy the ‘Lion’ Bluray from Amazon.
The films boasts of a story that is subtle and sweet, while never exploiting the emotional sensitivity that comes with such stories of loss and hardship. The better part of ‘Lion’ is dominated by newcomer Sunny Pawar, who will undoubtedly go down in cinematic history as one of the best child actors ever!
A 5 year old boy is accidentally lost at a train station in rural India, falling asleep up on an empty train cart, unknowingly being displaced thousands of kilometres away from his home. With no idea where he is from and where he needs to return to, Saroo, played by Pawar, drifts through the city, harrowingly avoiding more treacherous fates, and ending up in the orphanage system. The young Saroo’s mis-adventures of avoiding the dangers that await a young boy on the grimy streets of India ends with him being adopted by a loving family in Australia. But his life story only just begins.
‘Lion’ could quite possibly be one of the best true stories ever told on the big screen.
Into adulthood, Saroo is a well adjusted young man (Dev Patel), aware of his own history and accepting of his current life. That is until a glimpse back into the culture he comes from forces a flood of memories from his past, compelling him to find the brother, mother and sister that he was so suddenly separated from. This begins a downward spiral of self destruction as Saroo becomes obsessed with the impossible task of trying to find a place he can’t name, and a family he doesn’t know even the proper names of, relying only on memories from when he was a toddler.
‘Lion’ is a tour de force of raw emotions raining upon the audience from every direction. The sad-ness of Saroo’s unanswered questions, the anxiety of his parents troubled by his distress, the unraveling of his life as each passing day creates more desperation… are all burdens that the audience themselves carry throughout the film, along with the characters. The fact that this is all based on a true story, further impacts the effect of the story on the audience, especially when fact and fiction blur by the end of the film.
Adapted from the book by the real Sarroo Brierley, director Garth Davis is able to create the ultimate tearjerker of a movie, but one that never once intentionally attempts to create emotional moments on camera. Instead, ‘Lion’ allows the circumstances and story to impact the characters in significant ways, and ones that affect the audience just as strongly. Patel’s performance as a lost and desperate young man, feeling every day like his true self is slipping further and further away from him is remarkable. The way he commands screen presence in ‘Lion’ shows just how far Patel has come from his stumbling and disarming portrayals of characters in most of his on-screen roles thus far; notably ‘The Newsroom’.
Patel is amazingly complimented in his performance by Nicole Kidman as his adoptive mother Sue. Their relationship one of the pillars that ‘Lion’ is built upon, the other being Saroo’s relationship with Lucy. (Rooney Mara) In part, ‘Lion‘ is really is more a story of mothers and sons. young Saroo’s strength and resilience while living on the streets came from his mother’s consoling words, while older Saroo’s frantic helpless-ness came from trying to recount his mother’s appearance years later.
Sunny Pawar will undoubtedly go down in cinematic history as one of the best child actors ever!
Kidman is brilliant in a role where she doesn’t say much, but her inner conflict is understood much through her expressions and overt presence as a mother. Sue is unapologetic for her choices, encouraging of her sons, (even one who is emotionally challenged) and supportive as hell of the Indian boy whom he considers her blood. In a climate of devastating separation and divisive-ness in the world, seeing an Australian Nicole Kidman and David Wenham casually discussing the future of the Indian boy whom they consider their own over lunch, provides much needed comfort that the real world seems unable to at this moment.
Patel and Kidman have been nominated in the Supporting Actor & Actress categories at the 89th Academy Awards, and rightfully so. While both Patel and Kidman are remarkable in their portrayal, the tiny little boy Pawar is the true hero of this story. Pawar’s face flawlessly reflects the innocence of a helpless toddler, mature enough to realize his predicament, but will naive enough to not be burdened by the travesty of it. Pawar’s cute-ness is really what tugs at heartstrings every time he’s in danger, and creates waves of unending happiness when seeing him get a happy ending in the story.
I would be remiss not to mention Priyanka Bose, playing Saroo’s biological mother. Bose stands out in a role with minimal dialogue, but a visceral depiction of a mother trying her best to support her kids. Her raw beauty comes through in the flashback sequences and her blissful moments only enhance your investment in this story and these people.
‘Lion’ is nominated for Best Motion Picture, Best Actor In A Supporting Role, Best Actress In A Supporting Role, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography at the 2017 Oscars.
The 89th Academy Awards will be airing on ABC on February 26th, 2017.