Effective because it is true. Based on a non-fiction story, this is about a five-year old Indian boy named Saroo (Sunny Pawar). He just wants to help his brother provide for their family, but during a night job, he falls asleep on a train that doesn’t stop until it is a few thousand miles away, which puts him in a region of India where he doesn’t even speak the same language. 25 years later, he is a full grown man (Dev Patel), and he sets out to try and locate his family. We are in the thick of awards season, and it can be tricky to suss out what is a quality film and what is simply the Oscar bait. Without doing extensive research, you can make a wrong call, and even then, it can still be hard to tell, as critics don’t necessarily always know what they are talking. I’m not even going to beat around the bush with Lion: this is a really great story, and you should go out of your way to check this out.
It’s a situation that is hard to even begin to fathom yourself or a loved on in.
This movie is really two movies in one, the first half showing how dangerous and rough it is to be a lost child in India, the second half being the attempt to reconnect. Make no mistake, the second half would be a really good movie just on its own, but the first half of this is absolutely amazing, and it is the real star here. Also, just so you are prepared, the first half of this movie is entirely in subtitles because this is India; it didn’t make a lick of difference to me, but I did see a couple in my theater get up and leave about twenty minutes in, and I think that all of the reading had to be the reason (the trailers showcase all of the scenes from the English-speaking second half that takes place in Australia). The first half of this is aided by the fact that they got the cutest kid in the world to anchor the movie; it is almost like he is the kid that you see on television that you can sponsor for the price of a cup of coffee a day, and it is not long at all before you have a strong sympathetic connection. Patel is great, but Pawar is amazing in this, and the fact that he is in such a life or death situation makes you sincerely care what happens to him. Sure, you know that he survives because of how the plot synopsis is written, but being that he cannot trust a single person, you are never certain exactly what is going to happen to him along the way.
I’m sure he has a loving family, but I want to fill out the paperwork to adopt him.
This movie is this year’s The Impossible; it is based on true events, and the odds are so staggeringly stacked against this boy (and the later man), it really makes you feel like all hope is lost at a number of points, and you are ready to have your heart broken at every turn. Along with West Texas, I don’t think that I ever need to go to India, and this movie does a terrific job at painting how overpopulated the country is with seedy danger just around so many different corners. I enjoyed this from start to finish, and I give it an enthusiastic recommendation.
Lion (2016) ****1/2
– Critic for Hire
Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2016? See for yourself here.