Lion

Five year old Saroo, played by Sunny Pawar, is separated from his mother and siblings when he takes shelter in a decommissioned train that travels over 1200 miles to Calcutta.  This is devastating since they are desperately poor and there is no way to be reunited unless they are very lucky.  Saroo cannot remember the proper name of his town and therefore cannot tell people where he’s from.  He survives as best he can until he lands in an orphanage and is finally adopted by John and Sue Brierly, an Australian couple played by David Wenham and Nicole Kidman.  There he is raised in a loving middle class home.

But when he grows up, Saroo, now played by Dev Patel, becomes obsessed with what his birth mother must have gone through.  Looking at the luxury he enjoys every day, he feels guilty about the family he left behind in squalor.  He uses Google Earth and his spotty memories to try and find his home town.  But it takes a long time and his obsession costs him his job, his girlfriend Lucy, played by Rooney Mara and almost his relationship to his adoptive parents.

The first half of the film is really good.  Sunny Pawar is a natural at playing a smart kid who has good instincts when it comes to steering around the more awful aspects of surviving on the streets of Calcutta in the 1980’s.  The city’s homeless ghettoes are depicted brilliantly with fast cuts and moving cameras.  The colors are muted and dingy.  You are really concerned for this spunky kid as he moves from one Dickensian situation to another.

In the second half, however, the pace slows down as the film becomes mopey.  I appreciate his dilemma here but I don’t understand why refuses all help with his search and I knew his parents would support him and not think he was ungrateful.  Why didn’t he?  This is a true story but that didn’t ring true.  There must have been something that the filmmakers left out.

In any case all that angst really caused the pace to drag in the second half of the film.  The ending, once he gets to India is real tearjerker so bring some tissues but boy is it a slog getting there.

Lion is worth seeing and I guess part of the profits go helping orphans in India, which is as good a cause as I can think of.

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