Family reunion shows are amongst the most popular on TV. Usually they are an excuse for much weeping with violins swirling in the background. Amidst the clichés are some heart-wrenching tales of forced separation and dire circumstances.
Although commercial television networks present them in clichéd fashion, the core stories featured are often compelling. Lion takes its cue from the ‘long lost family’ genre. It follows a familiar trajectory but is no less engrossing as its televisual brethren.
Saroo Brierley (Dev Patel) lives with his adoptive Australian parents John (David Wenham) and Sue (Nicole Kidman). Despite having been with them for 25 years and thinking of them as his parents, Saroo longs to uncover his past. In this quest he is helped by girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara). Travelling to India in search of his biological family, he uncovers a tale of heartbreak and lost opportunities. Determined to reveal the mysteries of his past, Saroo’s life is radically altered by what he discovers.
Capably directed by Garth Davis, Lion is about identity. Although Saroo has carved out his own life, his sense of identity haunts him. Although raised in Australia, his Indian heritage still lingers. How he grapples with this drives Lion’s story. His love for his adoptive parents is real but so is the one for his birth parents. This emotional conflict affects those around him in interesting ways. Davis ensues these elements are expertly interwoven in a captivating narrative until the final denouncement.
The cinematography of the Australian and Indian locales is sublime. It effectively captures two different cultures in all their beauty. This adds to Saroo’s battle between home and heart. s strongly portrayed by Patel, it is easy sympathising with his journey and his efforts in finding closure. Occasionally the screenplay drags with an overlapping of exposition taking away focus. Lion’s central issue is always shown however, with each character attempting to make the best of a difficult situation.
Lion is a solid drama making the most of its premise. Whilst it over-indulges in certain emotional beats on occasion, it generally tells its story well. True tales are often more compelling than fictional ones, which Lion highlights in under-stated fashion.
Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Rating out of 10: 7