Directed by Mark Davis
Written by Luke Davies
A young orphaned boy from India is adopted by a loving Australian family, but, as a young man, finds himself compelled to find the mother and brother he feels he left behind in the based-on-a-true-story drama Lion—an incredibly impressive first feature effort from director Mark Davis.
We are introduced to young Saroo, an endlessly hopeful and positive spirit, and the bond he shares with his mother and older brother as they scratch out a meager existence in a small Indian village.
Wanting to prove that his worth outweighs his diminutive stature, Saroo follows his older brother one morning to help him work, but soon finds himself lost on a train and transformed into a statistic among India’s overwhelming population of homeless children.
Through a stroke of luck he is plucked from an orphanage by an affluent, humanitarian family, who also adopt another young Indian boy as his brother. Well provided for, the boys grow up in a privileged lifestyle in Australia, although the brothers are often at odds with one another.
After a key encounter jogs a specific childhood memory, emotions come flowing back and Saroo embarks on a journey to locate his home village and reunite with his family in India—with nothing to guide him but fading childhood memories and the aid of Google Earth.
Dev Patel delivers arguably his best performance to date as the grown Saroo, and solid support is provided by Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman and David Wenham, but the true standout of Lion is Sunny Pawar as the young Saroo. His amazing performance is truly a revelation—embodying a pure optimism and resourcefulness completely without guile.
The cinematography is frequently gorgeous, making particularly-worthy use of several long, overhead landscape shots under the opening credits that come to play at a key moment later in the film. The direction throughout is well-paced and effectively balances intimate character moments with the grandiosity of the story at large.
Lion is an assured debut from Mark Davis—well made on a technical level and infused with engagingly strong performances—that both tells an amazing tale about the power of family and spreads awareness of the the struggles many forgotten children face in the streets of Calcutta.
Artistic Value – 7 / 10
Social Value – 7 / 10
Entertainment Value – 8 / 10