‘Lion’ film shows the long way home

Kristofer Gossett, Ph.D, Contributing Writer

“Lion” is really two movies in one, which ultimately ends up being one of its biggest narrative strengths, but also creates a feeling of being incomplete in a lot of ways.
Director Garth Davis and screenwriter Luke Davies tell the true story of Saroo, a boy who was transported away from his family and ultimately adopted by an Australian couple, (played wonderfully by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham).
The first half of the movie follows Saroo as a young boy and tells the story of how he got separated from his family.
Newcomer Sunny Pawar plays the young Saroo and does a great job establishing an emotional tie to the character.
Once he is adopted we then flash forward 20 years to an older Saroo played by Dev Patel and the second half of the film follows his journey to see if he can find where he was from and reconnect with his real family, whom he hadn’t seen in over two decades.
I had the feeling that the real life story of Saroo was probably more interesting than the movie, unfortunately.
In trying to marry two separate points in time, the filmmakers had a hard time keeping everything in line. Some of the actors didn’t get enough screen time to establish themselves as three–dimensional characters.
This was especially true with a wasted effort by Rooney Mara as Saroo’s love interest in the movie.
This character was integral, it seemed, to Saroo’s emotional journey as an adult but the script didn’t give her enough screen time to really feel like a fully developed character.
In the attempt to connect two completely different time periods I felt the movie didn’t really have a chance to do either half the justice it deserved.
That being said, this is a wonderfully made movie.
The cinematography and acting are both top notch.
Patel (“Slumdog Millionaire”) deserved his Oscar nomination as his role of the adult Saroo is the one that is more emotionally nuanced.
While the movie didn’t achieve the lofty status of other 2016 movie standouts like “La La Land” and “Manchester by the Sea” it most definitely deserved recognition as a Best Picture nominee.
Even with some of the narrative problems it is a very moving film and one that makes you believe in the human spirit.
4 out of 5 stars