‘I’m not from Calcutta. I’m lost…’
You can’t sell an audience an emotional scene simply by telling them it’s emotional. Those feelings need to be earnt. You can’t feel sentimental about something that you don’t care about. Stirring, instrumental music isn’t enough. An actor ostentatiously wiping tears away from their cheek isn’t enough. The audience must be taken on a journey. A journey that allows them to lose themselves if only for a moment. A good film encourages the audience to ask questions of the characters. A great film forces the viewer to question themselves. Lion is a great film…
When Saroo (Sunny Pawar) is separated from his brother at a vast train station, he ends up thousands of miles away from his native India and with no idea how to get home. Lion chronicles the journey of Saroo from his tentative first steps, right through to adulthood (as portrayed by Dev Patel) as he tries to find his way back home.
Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman provide able support in the form of Saroo’s lover and mother respectively, but it is Pawar and Patel who really drive this movie. For a film that was always going to be pretty predictable, it is the job of the actors to make you care. Patel is so natural and likeable, and Pawar so sweetly naive that I was fully invested in Saroo by the film’s conclusion (indeed, I might have had something in my eye at the end there), and it is testament to the two actors that they are able to truly convey the strength of emotion at the core of Lion and the remarkable story within.
Garth Davis’ film was nominated for six Oscars upon release, and yet it somehow passed me by at the time. This is a shame because Lion is clearly an important work. The coda reveals that 80,000 children go missing on the streets of India each year. Davis, Patel and the rest of the cast have shone a light on this issue whilst also producing a tableau of heartbreak, loss and hope. AND it’s on Netflix. A film for everyone to enjoy.