‘Lion’ starring Dev Patel is a mighty fine film

Lion Dev Patel

Lion | Staring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman | Opens Thursday Jan 19 | ★★★★★

Saroo Brierley’s life makes an incredibly captivating story.

Last year I heard Saroo, who was adopted by an Australian couple, talking to Richard Fidler on ABC radio about his journey to find his biological family. It’s one of those tales that grabs your complete attention. So it’s no surprise that his 2014 autobiography A Long Way Home has quickly been adapted for film.

Indian born Saroo is just five years old at the begging of this story. His mother works in a quarry carrying rocks. Along with his older brother Gaddu, Saroo helps the family make money by stealing coal off moving trains. Gaddu also gets occasional work sweeping the floors of trains.

One night Saroo convinces Gaddu to let him tag along when he goes to work at night. The pair catch a train to a nearby town, but by the time they arrive Saroo has fallen asleep and refuses to wake up. Gaddu puts him to rest on a platform bench and asks him to stay there until he returns.

Hours later Saroo wakes up, the platform is dark and empty. He begins looking of his brother and steps on to an empty train at the platform. The train takes off and Saroo is unwittingly taken on a journey that spans many hours, he travels across the country to the bustling city of Kolkata.

When the five year old gets off the train he is in a strange place, where people speak a different language, and he is forced to fend for himself as one of the thousands of homeless children in one of India’s biggest cities.

Eventually, many months later, he is rounded up and taken to an orphanage. The authorities are unable to determine where he came from and Saroo is adopted by an Australian couple.

Living in Tasmania with his new parents Sue and John Brierley, Saroo is soon joined by a second adopted Indian child, Mantosh. The pair grow up in Australian and eventually he moves to the mainland to attend hospitality college. Here he meets girlfriend Lucy.

Lion Dev Patel

Now in his 20’s he begins to wonder if he can locate the town he came from, he draws a giant circle on a map to estimate the starting point of his journey to Kolkata. Then with the aid of Google maps he begins zooming in on different towns trying to find something he remembers from his childhood. He is looking for a needle in a haystack.

Soon the task consumes his life, putting his relationship, and his connection to his adoptive family at risk.

This debut feature from Australian director Garth Davis, with a screenplay by Candy author Luke Davies, is inspiring and an emotional boxing match. The anticipation over whether or not Saroo will find his long lost family is gut-wrenching.

The first half of the film, which was beautifully shot in India, takes us on every step of Saroo’s journey. Child actor Sunny Pawar delivers a stunning performance. In the second half of the film, Saroo is all grown up and well known actor Dev Patel takes over the part.

Patel is well known to audiences through his TV roles in Skins and three seasons of the Aaron Sorkin series The Newsroom. He’s also has memorable roles in Chappie, Slumdog Millionaire and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. 

In this role Patel delivers a performance that puts all his other roles in the shade, when he first appears on screen you wonder if it actually is the well known actor. Bearded and with an Australian accent – he transforms himself to become Saroo Brierley.

nicolekidman Lion

Nicole Kidman appears as Saroo’s adoptive mother Sue, while David Wenham plays her husband. It’s a unusually un-glamorous role for Kidman, who excels in playing the caring mother who raises two challenging adopted sons.

The inspiring film provoked a gallon of tears at the preview screening, so we strongly recommend taking a box of tissues along, but it’s worth every moment.

Luna Cinemas are hosting a special event on Sunday January 15th. A Q&A with Saroo and Sue Brierley, the real family behind the story of LION  will be in attendance to talk about their incredible respective journeys. The event has already sold -out.

Graeme Watson

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