Review: Lion

An Indian man raised in Australia tries to find his hometown with the help of Google Earth in Lion. Saroo (Sunny Pawar) is an Indian boy living with his mother Kamla (Priyanka Bose) and older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) in an impoverished neighborhood. One day Saroo accompanies Guddu on trip and is left by his brother to wait at the train station. When Guddu doesn’t return, Saroo boards an empty train and ends up travelling nearly 1500 km to Calcutta. Eventually taken in by an orphanage, Saroo is adopted by Australian couple Sue and John Brierley (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham).

Two decades later, the adult Saroo (Dev Patel) has become accustomed to Australian culture, with him going to university to study hospitality and beginning a relationship with American student Lucy (Rooney Mara). While at dinner with some Indian friends, Saroo suddenly receives flashes of memories from his childhood and suddenly desires to search for his mother and brother. After being told about the software Google Earth, Saroo begins to retrace his steps to find home.

Lion is based on the true story of Saroo Brierley, who managed to find his hometown and family after being lost for 25 years. The film is adapted from Saroo’s 2014 memoir A Long Way Home, with him being portrayed on screen by Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire). The story of Lion is told in two very distinct halves, with the first half of the film focusing primarily on Saroo as a child lost on the streets of Calcutta, before jumping ahead twenty years to Saroo as an Australian-raised young man, who decides one day that he would like to locate his hometown.

It can be said that the appeal of Lion is that the film is an inspirational feel-good story that is almost sure to generate some tears with its emotional conclusion. Even with me knowing how this story turns out, I did find myself getting caught up in the film’s ending. Indeed, if the ending was all there was to Lion, this would be an excellent film. However, the journey towards the ending marks my issues with the film.

Even though Lion is just under two hours long, I thought that the film still came off as somewhat too long. Pretty much the entire first hour of the film focused solely on the journey of the young Saroo. While I appreciate director Garth Davis’ desire to portray the plot of the film chronologically with little flashbacks, the real meat of the plot doesn’t arrive until the film switches to Dev Patel’s adult Saroo. As such, the first half of the film could’ve used some major trimming to improve the film’s pacing.

However, despite my pacing issues with the film, I will not say that Lion isn’t a film that’s not worth checking out. I can understand why so many people love this film, however I just don’t really feel the same way about it.

7 / 10 stars

Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).