It’s sometimes difficult to acknowledge that truth is stranger than fiction—sometimes it makes life more intriguing, but sometimes it creates a void that’s hard to fill.
In Garth Davis’ “Lion,” the situation is the latter. Based on an autobiographical story, the film focuses on Saroo Brierley (played by adorable newcomer Sunny Pawar), a poor young boy from the slums of Calcutta who gets separated from his family. He is eventually taken thousands of miles from home to Australia, where a lovely couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham) adopts him.
20 years later, Saroo (Dev Patel), now 25 and about to enter the hotel industry, begins having flashbacks of his childhood, which trigger deep feelings of pain. This gives him the drive to look for his birth mother and his brother, but at a price.
“Lion” is a journey of an individual trying to find his roots. In some ways, Saroo is trying to make his life complete, even though he seems to have everything he needs. His girlfriend (Rooney Mara) tries to be supportive, even though she fears Saroo might not find what he’s looking for. It’s hard to fault her—traveling thousands of miles to search for someone who may or may not be alive is a risky venture to say the least.
The story in “Lion” is undeniably moving and in some ways hard to believe. However, Davis gives the film enough truth and heart that the audience can’t help but become invested in Saroo’s journey. The cast play their roles very well, especially Patel and Kidman, whose small, intimate moments as mother and son are not only the film’s most moving segments, but the heart of what the film is really about: family.
“Lion” is ultimately about hope, empathy and putting yourself into someone else’s shoes so you can experience their life. It also shows that determination and perseverance can help you find your destiny.
Even though Davis could have gone deeper into Saroo’s family life and relationships, at least he gets into the core of what matters in this inspirational yarn.