Saturday 25 February 2017

Lion ... Tracks to nowhere

VIEWERS can be forgiven for thinking that the first act of Australian director Garth Davis's debut feature film Lion resembles the porn poverty in Slumdog Millionaire. An irresistible Saroo (Sunny Pawar), 5, steals the show with his impish grin and indomitable spirit to survive amid the hustle and bustle of Calcutta, India.
   The scenes with his elder brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) are strong and emotional, as are the scenes of him escaping a would-be abductor.
   The him, however, flounders when Saroo is adopted by an angelic white Australian couple, John Brierley (David Wenham) and his wife Sue (Nicole Kidman). After one meal, one bathtime session and one nice talk, Sue has bonded with the illiterate Saroo.

   The film is based on the book A Long Way Home by the adult Saroo Brierley. He writes about how he was accidentally separated from his brother, mother and sister and ended up thousands of kilometres away in Calcutta. He was sent to live with his adoptive parents in Australia, and at university, he used Google Earth to find his village. He met his mother and sister in 2012 after a gap
Sue Brierley (Nicole Kidman) and Saroo (Sunny Pawar)
ponder their Oscar chances.
of 25 years.
  One can surmise why Lion is being nominated for Best Picture at tomorrow's Oscars. Firstly, the tale of reconnecting with a long-lost loved one is powerful, and more so when it's done unconventionally using technology like Google Earth.
   Secondly, people love the story of whites helping black and brown helpless children.
  One pivotal scene has Sue telling the adult Saroo (Dev Patel, nominated for an Oscar Best Supporting Actor) that she could have had kids of her own, but agreed with her husband that they wanted to adopt because there were so many children in the world.
   Saroo not wanting to tell Sue about him searching for his hometown and origins is also nothing new. There have been many movies about adoptive children not wanting to hurt their adoptive parents' feeling when they were searching for their identity.
  His relationship with American girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara) is a hindrance to the film's narrative.
   The Brierleys also adopted another Indian child, Mantosh, who hits himself repeatedly on the head.  But the film never explains why he does it, even when when he does it as an adult. The book says Mantosh was abused before he was adopted.
  Lion is inspiring and a bit of a tearjerker, just like Hidden Figures, but it hits the high notes only in
Rooney Mara and Dev Patel check out the view.
the first part. The film doesn't tackle the problem of missing children, but instead offers a nice conclusion.

2½ stars out of 5


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