Lion (2016)

2:09 PM

The Search Begins.
 Lion is the feature length directorial debut from Garth Davis. The film stars Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, Chappie), Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge!, The Others), Rooney Mara (Carol, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and introduces Sunny Pawar. "A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family". Will Lion have a roaring impression or will it leave audiences growling in frustration?


I'd say that out of this year's Best Picture nominees, Lion is probably the one people are least likely to know about - it's that typical small film that starts getting attention at awards season, coming out of no where - it isn't a frontrunner but it's in the conversation. Lion gained 6 Oscar nominations but the film let me wondering why so many - maybe 2 or 3 but not 6! This certainly isn't a film I would give Best Picture, it's pretty good but not that good. The performances are strong and it is a heartbreaking and heartwarming tale but it's nothing spectacular. 

The performances are definitely a strong point for Lion. First, let's talk about Sunny Pawar who does a very good job of holding this film for the first half - there isn't much dialogue in English but Pawar's performance still means that you care for his character. Sunny Pawar is cute, charming, confident and is very good. Some have ranked his performance higher than Jacob Tremblay in Room, I wouldn't go that far but the future looks bright for Pawar, he is off to an excellent start. The second half of the film is led by Dev Patel who has earned himself a nomination for Best Actor. However, I firmly believe he is out-shined by Pawar in this film. Patel is good but for some reason, I felt like his character lost his likability as he got older. Patel is good but not good enough to remember his performance. I don't really know how I feel about the flow between Pawar and Patel - looking back, it didn't really feel like they were the same character. The supporting cast were very strong. I was impressed by Nicole Kidman - I liked her character the moment she came on screen and found her likeable. However, her scenes and monologues towards the end definitely felt like she was just there for an Oscar nomination - which she got. I was also impressed by Rooney Mara - another likeable performance and although she didn't really have much to do, she made the most of her screen time and did a nice job. 

Like most critics, I agree that the first half of Lion is much stronger than the second half. I actually think this is because the first half has a narrative you are interested in so it is captivating. The pace is also much better - the film is constantly moving. The first half is pretty sad and heart-breaking - this young boy has accidentally become very lost and because of his age, he can't communicate with those around him for help. It was eye-opening to see poverty from a young person's eyes - especially the struggles young people are put through. SPOILER - when Saroo (Pawar) finally gets put into an adoption home and finds adopted parents, I actually found this more heart-breaking than exciting. This young boy is going to grow up happy but he's going to be on the other side of the globe and his family will be without him forever. 

However, the second half of this film is a lot less exciting and interesting - even though it still has a narrative - Saroo (Patel) is trying to find his actual family. However, I think that the film took too much time going around in circles and not getting to the point. I actually found the second half frustrating - I just wanted him to find his family already not have more shots of a guy looking at Google Earth. It was clever how he used his memories of where he travelled to picture areas that could lead him to home. The pace of the second half was also much slower, there wasn't much to it so I feel like the search was made to seem much harder than it was. However, SPOILER, when the reunion finally occurs - it does live up to the build up, I got shivers when Saroo was reunited with his mother. 

The film is simply called Lion because that is what 'Saroo' means in English. However, I think there are actually some comparisons this story and character to the animal. Not only does Saroo's hair progressively get longer so he almost grows a mane, the story is like watching a cub go to fully fledged animal. Saroo is brave, courageous and also loyal - all qualities of the Lion. 

Lion is a good film, not an amazing one. I feel like the film lost a lot of steam in its second half - the pace is slowed right down and Patel's performance pales in comparison to Pawar's - even though it is still good. I think Lion is 20 minutes too long, if that second half was condensed into 40 minutes instead of 60, I may have left the cinema a little less frustrated with the film - it just dawdled around instead of getting straight to the point. Lion isn't my pick for Best Picture, or any of the nominations it has but I enjoyed it and I think for those who want a pretty inspirational tale, Lion is probably for you. 

66

/100

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