Some movies feel like they can manipulate me very easily, by the simple fact that I’m a parent. They play on the emotions of your influence on your kids, protecting them and raising them in a nurturing environment and get under your skin as you think about your own little you in the world. There are other movies that will get you whether you are a parent or not because we all have had a sister, brother, mother or father at some point in our lives because it focuses on an unbreakable connection. This is definitely true for the new film Lion, one that got me a bit emotional at a few points.
The movie starts with a five-year-old Indian boy named Saroo, who gets lost while scouring the city with his big brother, who leaves him on his own. Saroo awakes at a train station in the middle of the night, gets onto an open train to look for his brother and the train starts moving, taking him away from his home. Eventually, Saroo’s trip will take him to the big city of Calcutta and he is taken in at an orphanage and adopted by an Australian family. Over twenty years later, Saroo is feeling a displacement within himself and a need to find his mother and brother, prompting him to dedicate his time to finding a small village that he can’t remember the exact name of. Taking place in 2008, a new internet program called Google Earth ends up being the tool he uses for reconnection.
Looking at the trailer, this film is reminiscent of Slumdog Millionaire in its overwhelming optimistic feel, which is kind of funny seeing that the lead actor in both films is Dev Patel. Lion is far different from the best picture winner, a true story that will captivate you, starting with the simple harrowing journey of a young boy lost in a world he doesn’t understand, constantly calling for his mom and brother. If these things don’t tug at those old heart strings, I don’t know what will. Beautifully filmed by first-time feature director Garth Davis and Foxcatcher cinematographer Greig Fraser, Lion is a stunning looking film, especially when on location in India.
The second half of the film is something that may deter some of the viewers that were so drawn in by the beginning of this story. As a man in his middle twenties, Saroo is now quite privileged with a good upbringing yet, while at a party, he is triggered back to that traumatic event in his past causing the later portion of his self-discovery journey. It may come off as false feeling but when I thought was more of a plot point thrown in for formula measures was the relationship between Saroo and his girlfriend, played by the always welcome Rooney Mara. It largely feels unnecessary as she really doesn’t add much to Saroo’s tale, only serving as the conflict of the film. For me, these are minuscule gripes but I can see it bothering others. I thought this was one of the better true stories this year and highly recommend it. 4/5