Movie Review: Lion

Details: Released in 2016. About two hours long. Stars Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara.

This is the last movie that was nominated for an Academy Award this year that I had yet to see. I hadn’t heard much about it, but the trailer looked promising.

Lion is a movie based on a true story. It’s about a boy in India who got lost by wandering onto a train and not being able to find his way home. He ends up stuck on the train for days and becomes a homeless child in Calcutta. After weeks spent on the street, he gets picked up and sent to an orphanage, where he is then adopted by an Australian couple. Decades later, the boy is now a man and tries to use Google Earth to find his original home and his birth family.

There was actually a segment on 60 Minutes (a journalistic program on CBS) on this very story. I did a little more research after watching the film and was amazed by how truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. There were points in the film where I felt the director took creative license in order to create drama. To my surprise, a lot of those plot points actually happened. It’s an amazing and tearful story that I recommend taking a look at.

As for the film, bring Kleenex. I choked back tears a number of times in this film. It’s a touching story made that much more emotional by the fact that it was based on true story. The film generally goes along chronologically starting from the boy’s childhood and through his adulthood and decision to find his birth family. There are welcome time skips along the way to see how his life has developed as well as flashbacks to prior points in his childhood. It’s a film where the majority of the film is spent building up to that ending reveal and the discovery of what happened to his family and what he finds at the end of his journey. I’m not going to ruin the ending here and I suggest you don’t either. Just watch it first before looking it up online.

The film is definitely reminiscent of Slumdog Millionaire in some respects, and not just because Dev Patel is in it. There is this feeling of East meets West, with a dash of contemporary popular culture thrown in. Where in Slumdog Millionaire, the modern factor that adds color and makes the story relatable was the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire television show, Lion has Google Earth as the primary tool that is used to find his home.

The actors also do a great job. Dev Patel is great, but Nicole Kidman is fantastic. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Kidman in a role that really moved me. As good as Kidman was, it was the Indian children in the movie which had the most authentic roles. Seeing child actors always bothers me in that it is well-known that child talent is often taken advantage of in show business. I can only hope that the kids here were properly taken care of and compensated for their work.

Overall, I loved this film and think it is very likely to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The subject matter and story are moving and relevant, while not being polarizing. The performances were great. The only reason that I can see this being clearly snubbed is because the film feels familiar (so as not to be “new”) in that it does as good a job as Slumdog Millionaire in portraying India in a contemporary, gritty, yet respectful way. This is a good movie, possibly the best of 2016. Go watch it.

Score: 8.4/10

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