YouTube: Lion Official Trailer 1 (2016) – Dev Patel Movie

On my quest to see as many of this year’s Best Picture Oscar nominees, I must admit that Garth Davis’ real-life Google Maps success story was not atop my list. I was not aware of the original story, nor the book, nor the film until a week or so before I saw it. I’d heard good things, but not extraordinary, so was expecting an enjoyable enough time at the cinema.

This was not the case. At all. In any way. It was far more extreme than that.

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I’ll start with the performances, all of which are great, but the film is sure to be remembered for Sunny Pawar (the film’s lead, Saroo), the Breakout Star to end all Breakout Stars. For a child who had never seen a Hollywood film before he saw this, his own film, he is simply superb. Putting aside his title of Cutest Child Actor Ever, his ability to carry the whole first half of this film almost entirely alone is hard to fathom. One has to credit the direction when dealing with an actor so young and so inexperienced, and Davis and his crew did a wonderful job here, but Pawar is the reason the first half of Lion is so memorable and so brilliant. The second half of the film sees the experienced pros take over, with Dev Patel (grown up Saroo), Nicole Kidman (his adoptive mother, Sue), David Wenham (adoptive father, John) and Rooney Mara each giving strong performances. It’s difficult for Wenham and Mara to excel as much as Patel and Kidman, as they have far less screen time, but they’re impressive in their own right. Kidman has one or two scenes that allow her the opportunity to show off, and earn her a fourth Oscar nomination, while Patel is the clear standout in the second half. In what is ultimately the least interesting act of the film, he manages to engage the audience in his relationships and search for his home.

The story itself is a heartbreaking, heartwarming, harrowing but gracefully explored depiction of poverty, loss, grief and home. Saroo’s journey is very nearly unbelievable, making it all the more special watching his story unfold before your eyes. Watching little Sunny Pawar roaming the streets alone is difficult enough as it is without a regular pang of sadness when you remember that this happened to Saroo.

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I find it quite difficult to talk about or even think about the ending to the film. I was pretty emotional with a good section of the film to go, but the last fifteen minutes had me sobbing like a baby. More than I can remember crying in a long time. It’s sad, it’s happy-sad, it’s just plain emotional. The writing and direction of the final scenes are perfectly delivered, the use of flashbacks and real-life footage combining to make it an unforgettable finale to a fantastic film. Unforgettable is the adjective for the whole film. I’ll never forget Sunny Pawar’s first-half performance, nor Dev Patel’s anxious Google Maps-based attempts in the second half, and I’ll certainly never forget the ending.

I implore you to see this film, I really do. It’s magical. There will be so many people who put this film to the bottom of their To See list, as I had, and I’m desperate for that not to be the case. It is so worth your money and your time.

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5/5 stars

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5/5 stars