Tuesday, January 3, 2017

[Review] Lion

In Garth Davis' Lion, India's train system relentlessly roars across the country, giving and taking away. Dev Patel, of Slumdog Millionaire fame (I still love that movie, by the way), plays the central focus in this sweeping but uneven film about being lost and found in the most poignant and fateful ways.

The film is very much a tale of two halves, beginning with 5-year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar, what a fitting name) as he gets separated from his family, navigates homelessness, bounces through foster homes, and is eventually adopted by an Australian family (played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). After a 20 years later flashforward, Saroo (now played by Patel) is a grown college student struggling with his identity, and painstakingly searching for his biological mother.

I found the first half to be significantly more compelling. Led by a remarkably sympathetic performance from youngster Sunny Pawar, it's a devastating, intense, and heartfelt story that's powerfully told with impactful visuals and minimal dialogue. It's both intimately and epically shot, capturing India's sprawling scenery. Unfortunately, the second half falls a bit flat. It's so dour and humorless that it essentially becomes one-dimensional melodrama. The repetitive narrative mostly consists of Patel's Saroo staring at Google Earth and getting into disagreements with his girlfriend (Rooney Mara, who doesn't have much to do here). This section would feel like a complete slog if Dev Patel's gloriously wavy mane of hair wasn't so impressive to look at.

With that said, the ending does deliver its emotional payoffs, as it goes into effective tearjerker mode, driving the amazingness of its real-life story all the way home.

( 7.5/10 )

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