Sometimes there are true stories that captivate audiences with a novel, a play or film, or even a news report on one of the three basic channels, be it CBS, NBC, or ABC, that transcend our normal lives and make us think about somebody else for once. Lion, the true story of Saroo Brierley, is a story that I’m glad was told, but unfortunately the film they made wasn’t one that impressed me. I’ll just get into this one and not b.s. for a whole paragraph.
The story starts roughly in the mid 80’s as young Saroo and his brother are working nights in India to help their down and out mother. One of the nights, Saroo falls asleep on the park bench waiting for his brother to return right by the train tracks. When the young boy wakes up, he’s on a train that ends up in Calcutta. Completely separated from his family and not speaking the same language the locals do, he lives off of the streets for an undisclosed amount of time before being taken in at an orphanage, where he is eventually adopted by Australians, John and Sue Brierley. As he adjusts to his new life in Australia, he slowly warms up to his adoptive parents and soon his adoptive brother. By the time he’s ready for college in the late 2000’s, he begins a relationship with Lucy, a classmate of his who also wants to help him with a problem: Saroo wants to find out where he originally came from. Off of the advice of some classmates, he begins to use Google Earth to try and find the exact station he was left at and where he boarded the train. While it takes a few years, and his relationships with Lucy and his adoptive family are tested, he perseveres and finds the station and town he was originally from, but the question is who, if anybody, from his biological family, will be left?
I have inferred that isn’t my favorite movie, but there’s plenty of elements that make me not hate the movie. For two things, Nicole Kidman as Saroo’s adoptive mom and Dev Patel as the adult Saroo are excellent and both very worthy of the praise they have achieved so far this awards season. I do sincerely hope they get nominated at Oscars. Also good is Rooney Mara, who’s in the film a bit less than I initially thought she would be. The musical score is also pretty good, and the supporting cast, including David Wenham as adoptive father John and Divian Ladwa as adoptive brother Mantosh are also great, maybe a bit overlooked if you ask me. The director, Garth Davis, debuts with this film, and he did a good job. He definitely knows how to get good performances from his cast, but now we’ll get into some areas that were lacking for me.
My biggest complaint about the film is the pacing. While we’re initially intrigued with Saroo’s story as he is separated from his family, it takes forever to get to him being adopted. I’m talking an hour. While the little child actor was good, I just didn’t invest with the character of Saroo. It was just too damn slow. If this had taken maybe a half an hour, it would have been fine. Then there’s this whole half hour stretch where Saroo, as an adult, is moping around wishing he could find his original home and biological family. It’s nice to have a couple of scenes like this to invest in the character, now an adult, and initially I was intrigued and wanted him to continue his plight, but when he just sits on the beach or mopes around the malls for a quarter of the movie, I start to get impatient. Plus the screenplay has been touted as one of the best of the year, but with the exception of a few conversations between Saroo and his adoptive mom and Saroo and Lucy, there’s not much there, just your basic dialogue to get us from scene to scene. So it’s not a terrible screenplay, but just wanted to make that point. Anyways, I just feel, again, that this is a story worth telling and at the end, it’s cool to see a child who was completely lost find the spot he grew up, this would have made for a wonderful Lifetime channel movie, as a two hour feature length film, it feels overlonged, stretched out, and again there’s long stretches that just made me bored to tears.
Now sure, this movie has gotten tons and tons of great reviews, and some have claimed it’s one of the best films of 2016, but it looks like I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum on this one. I must stress that Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman are worthy of all the praise and attention they get, but with few exceptions, the rest of the film was kind of a bust to me. To wrap this up, this is a solid true story that I am glad was told, but I think they just chose the wrong medium. I am open to reading the novel in which this film is based, and perhaps that novel is tremendous. But the way this film was adapted, I kind of wish it had just stayed as a novel and I didn’t have to spend two hours with this film.
My rating: 5/10.