There are lots of movies on my List of Shame. If it was released before the ‘60s, there’s a solid chance I haven’t seen it. But that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in it! So you can come here to read about my first experience with movies I feel like I should have probably watched by now. And this isn’t limited to older classics. If it’s a movie I’m interested in, but just happened to miss, Playing Catch-Up is the series where you can find my thoughts on it!
I recently came across Lion, the 2016 film which was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Dev Patel.
With The Green Knight coming up, for which I couldn’t be more hyped, I’ve been trying to check out more of Patel’s work. I originally saw Patel in 2019’s Hotel Mumbai, which I absolutely loved and thought he was the standout. Since then, I’ve been wanting to see more of what he’s done. So with that in mind, I watched Lion.
A lot of the reactions to Lion that I read after watching it were either, it’s stinks because it’s obvious Oscar bait or, even though it’s obvious Oscar bait, it’s so good! But I’m glad that I didn’t read that until after the fact, because I didn’t know its Oscar hopes going into the movie and wasn’t watching it with those preconceived notions.
This movie is good. Like, really good. It portrays the true story of Saroo Brierley (Sunny Pawar plays the young version of the character), a seven-year-old poor Indian boy who is lost at a train station and then inadvertently gets taken hundreds of miles away from his home. Since he is so young and doesn’t know a lot of information about his home, he is eventually marked as a lost child. Fortunately, he’s adopted by an Australian couple named Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John (David Wenham) and he grows up in an environment which is about the opposite of where he was born.
Once he’s older (and now portrayed by Patel), Saroo decides it’s time to redouble his efforts to find the place where he came from and reunite with his birth mother, older brother, and younger sister. I won’t say how the movie ends, because if you haven’t seen it, it is highly worth a watch. Fortunately for me, half of the reason why it’s so good is because it stars Patel. I’ve now seen there of his movies (Hotel Mumbai, Slumdog Millionaire, and Lion) and he’s wowed me in each role. The second half of a movie that stars him is great for a whole different reason than the first half. In the more recent sections, he brings a certain rawness that sells his growing desperation and mental descent due to his ongoing search for his family. His Oscar nomination is well-deserved and I still don’t know how he isn’t one of the biggest movie stars we have today.
The other half of the reason this works so well is because of Pawar. He is our introduction to the character of Saroo at the age of seven and we follow him to nearly the first hour of the movie. In that time, he really impresses with his performance for such a young kid. His portrayal of absolute fear mixed with a neverending will to survive and return to his family draws you to Saroo like a magnet.
Lion’s first half is really what makes it work at all. It falls off ever so slightly when it shows Saroo as a grown man, but because of how well the setup was done, you’re still invested in the story until its very end.
The film doesn’t necessarily say anything astoundingly deep, but that it works so well on an emotional level is why I liked it so much. It explores true familial bonds, personal identity, and the effect home can have on a person. It’s more of a, “What’s going to happen next?” type of story than one that will have you trying to answer the big questions. But that manner works perfectly for the story the filmmakers are trying to tell. It’s beautiful in both heart and appearance, and if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth searching for.