Garth Davis offers a striking directorial debut in “Lion” about a young boy driven to reckon with his childhood in India. This true story has its melodramatic touches but thanks to newcomer Sunny Pawar and famed actor Dev Patel, the film emerges as a compelling study of the bond between two brothers and the pull of home.
Young Saroo (Pawar) is often asked to accompany his brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) on various errands. One day they walk by a train station and Guddu tells Saroo that he is going quickly to find jalebi, a deep fried snack.
Guddu does not return.
Saroo yells in vain for his brother and spends days sequestered on the train. He leaves the station and drifts about, eventually meeting Noor (Tannishtha Chatterjee), a kind woman who takes him in. Although he likes Noor, Saroo is intimidated by the formidable Mr. Rawa (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and runs away. After a bit of footwork, Saroo meets Mrs. Sood (Deepti Naval) who puts him in touch with Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John (David Wenham) an Australian couple that wish to adopt him.
Saroo gets on well and goes to college, obtaining a degree in hotel management. He has a girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara). But chance mentions of India in conversation along with the sight of food bring the young man a homesickness that only strengthens.
What follows is a detective story. Saroo must try to recover any detail from his past, however small. He resorts to using Google technology as well as analyzing his own heart and motivations. Is it worth the risk to travel to find out what he can and possibly end his new relationship with Lucy? Though the film has dabs of serial drama with a new self-loathing son in the family who inflicts pain upon himself and a occaisionally despondent Sue, the strong performances vanquish any traces of sap. While its true “Lion” unapologetically pulls on the heart and will have you reaching for your movie tissues, it does so in the traditional Hollywood spirit with heart, depth and authentic characters that become familiar to all.
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