LION (Australia 2016) **
Directed by Garth Davis
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, Dev Patel
Review by Gilbert Seah
When a feel-good story as in LION is made into a film, filmmakers often still feel the need to add on additional sweetness. PLAY IT LIKE BECKAM, BILLY ELLIOT and the more recent QUEEN OF KATWE are examples of films that fall into this trap.
Audiences do not seem to mind as observed in the box-office success of the first two aforementioned films though QUEEN OF KATWE bombed. Critics, however are never impressed with sugar-coated feel-good films. Unfortunately, LIONS falls into this category. Director Davis is still not ashamed to show a tear or two dripping from the face of the main protagonist, Saroo (Dev Patel), not once but twice.
Dev Patel (THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE), Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman star in the true story of Saroo Brierley, who was adopted by an Australian couple after being separated from his family in India at the age of five, and then located his original home using Google Earth 25 years later.
The film begins with overhead shot of Tasmania, Australia before settling, oddly in India. Here, the audience sees precocious five-year-old Saroo Khan (Sunny Pawar) in a very poor family. Over-eager to help his older brother Guddu with any odd job that will provide their family with much-needed money, Saroo follows Guddu everywhere he goes. One night the two boys are separated on a train platform in their native Madhya Pradesh, and Saroo winds up nearly a thousand miles away in Calcutta where he is fortunately taken in by a government orphanage. When an Australian couple (Kidman and David Wenham) adopts him, he is taken to live with them in Hobart, Tasmania. It’s not until Saroo leaves that island as a young Australian man (Dev Patel) that he begins to wonder what became of his first home and the family he so adored. Saroo falls into romaine with an Australian (Rooney Mara) in an awkward romance. It does not take a genius to figure out that Saroo will eventually be united with his mother in India through the help with Google earth.
Adapting Brierley’s own book, A Long Way Home, screenwriter Luke Davies and first-time director Garth Davis infuse the story with just too much heartbreak. Nothing is gained or learnt from this predictable true tale made worse with its tear jerking at every possibility. This is an example of the worst of a based on a true story, tear at your heart-strings film.
The reason the film is called LION is revealed at the very end of the film. Not that it matters any. The film LION arrives with much less than a roar.
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