By Bob Bloom
“Lion” is a solid movie that, unless you have ice in your veins, will have you wiping tears from your eyes by its final fade-out.
The movie, however, despite hitting the proper emotional keys, feels as if it’s missing something vital.
The film, based on a true story, follows Saroo, a 5-year-old Indian boy, who gets lost on a train that takes him thousands of miles from his village home.
Disembarking in Calcutta, the boy is on his own. Worse, he only speaks Hindi, not understanding the Bengali dialect spoken in the massive city.
Saroo is later taken to an orphanage, where, after a few months, an Australian couple, Sue and John, adopt him, bring him to their home in Tasmania and raise him as their son.
Yet, as he grows up, Saroo continually dreams of his family — feeling guilty about the anguish he has caused them and wondering if they are still searching for him.
Locating his village becomes an obsession for the now-adult Saroo, played by Dev Patel.
Saroo turns to Google Earth, scouring Indian rail lines, looking for landmarks he remembers, such as the water tower at the train station where his odyssey began.
“Lion” bogs down during this second act, as it raises several questions.
Why doesn’t Saroo contact Google, asking them for help? Why does he keep his search a secret from his adoptive parents? And why does he treat his adoptive brother — another lost Indian — so cruelly?
The performances by Patel and young Sunny Pawar as the 5-year-old Saroo compensate for many of the film’s shortcomings.
Pawar personifies the frightened child who is lost in a metropolis that overwhelms him. Yet, he is adaptive enough to quickly learn how to fend for himself.
Patel offers a complicated look at a torn young man, happy and comfortable in his loving and supportive surroundings, yet deeply anxious to find the loved ones he has lost.
“Lion” is a movie in which you strongly root for Saroo to succeed, despite how his overwhelming fixation nearly alienates everyone around him.
It is a testament to screenwriter Luke Davies and director Garth Davis that you continue to follow Saroo and become emotionally involved in his quest.
His need to reconnect with his roots touches a chord in each of us.
It is no spoiler to relate that Saroo succeeds. But his triumph is bittersweet.
Davis is most adept at showing the overwhelming task that Saroo undertakes, with aerial shots that emphasize the enormity of the Indian landscape.
“Lion” is an emotional express that, for the most part, delivers what you expect.
A sincere celebration of determination and the human spirit, this film will have you applauding and weeping simultaneously.
Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.
3 stars out of 4
(PG-13), mature thematic elements, some sensuality