Lion has a deep, important message, and one that needed to be told to a global audience.
India has serious issues with children living on its streets. As Lion makes the point in its closing moments, 80,000 children go missing each year in India. A number far too high. This is a film based on just one of these children’s stories. If the film is able to help even one child find their way to safety, the feature will have made a great difference.
Based on the true story of Saroo Brierley, Lion looks at what it is like for a young boy lost in the heart of the Indian city of Calcutta. Saroo finds himself separated from his brother after waking on a moving train, only to travel 1600 kilometres away from home.
Lion takes itself very seriously. It is attempting to create an awareness of children on the streets of India, whilst portraying a tale of monumental emotion. A once in a million true story. Which, when taken on its own, is a huge project, certainly not one to be taken lightly, nor has it been. Effectively split into two halves, the first half follows young Sunny Pawar as Saroo in a strong performance given his age and his independence on screen for much of the film. The film jumps 20 years where we are introduced to an older Saroo played by Dev Patel living with his adoptive parents in Tasmania (Nicole Kidman and . In fact the performances as a whole are a real highlight within the film. Heartfelt and emotional, the cast performs consistently at a high standard.
The film’s pacing is, however, where it lets itself down. There are long sections of the film that drag and slow to a trudge, whereas other sections are found whizzing by when they could easily have had a much longer and deeper look into the complications of a young man’s life. Yet, as far as feature length directorial debuts are concerned it can be considered a triumph for Garth Davis.
Lion feels is incredibly close. The dialogue is tight to the story with little wasted in needless conversations, and the camera angles portray lonely and loving in an impressive manner. Specifically in the first half of the film, where dialogue is sparse, there is a genuine feeling of being thrust onto the streets of India. This is certainly, in part, due to the long close ups and a vision set out by Davis. It could even be said that the sections based around the streets of Calcutta feel like a documentary. Something that works in Lion’s favour. The change of style from the grittiness of Calcutta to the modern sense of Tasmania really does hit home.
Lion has a deep, important message, and one that needed to be told to a global audience. It may not have needed to be in this format or style, but Garth Davis has made it work inimitably.