In his feature film directorial debut, Garth Davis takes the true story of five-year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) and moulds his tale into the uplifting and heart-warming film that is Lion. Grabbing the audience’s attention from the start, the plot follows Saroo as he boards a train, believing his brother to be on it, falls asleep and ends up 1,500 Kilometres from his home. Davis encapsulates this incredible story into two hours of poignant camera angles, authentic Hindi dialogue and truly honest performances from all actors, whether Hollywood mega star or bold newcomer plucked straight from the classroom.
A rising star, Sunny Pawar is the jewel in Lion’s magnificent crown. He was selected from a casting call that spanned the whole of India and in spite of his having no prior acting experience, his performance is incredibly genuine and, at only eight years old, reflects a maturity and sincerity way beyond his years. His portrayal of young Saroo is an appropriate contrast with Dev Patel’s impressive performance of the elder protagonist as he is torn between giving in to the memories of his past and not betraying or being ungrateful towards his present life and the family who took him in. Without being overly dramatic or intense, Patel conveys the emotional turmoil of Saroo’s situation, reflecting the real challenges which he must face to be reunited with his family once more. In what some critics are calling her best role to date, Nicole Kidman is well suited to the role of Sue Brierley, Saroo’s adopted mother. She too refrains from the heightened emotion which can be the downfall of many autobiographical films and instead successfully reflects the endeavour and strength of the real-life Sue Brierley.
Davis’ use of camera angles in the first half of the film works as a poignant way of placing emphasis on Saroo’s point of view, with many shots taken from the level of a small child, therefore intensifying the audience’s engagement with the character. Both he and his cast are triumphant in their portrayal of such a deeply moving and incredible story.
Image: Gordon Correll