Review: Lion (PG, 2hrs)


What’s a guy got to do to watch Transformers 7 nowadays?!

I jest, of course. It’s Oscar season so the big-budget blockbusters are running scared at the minute. This week, I went to see Lion, which is another rival to one of my favourite films of last year, Arrival, for the Best Picture Oscar. This came highly recommended to me by a film critic just before Christmas so I was eager to see this upon its release.

I should have looked harder for Transformers 7!

When five-year old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) gets lost on a train that takes him just under a thousand miles across India, he struggles to survive so far away from his family. After escaping the many dangers of sleeping rough, he is put in a children’s home and eventually adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). Twenty years later, when eating an Indian snack, Saroo (Oscar-nominated Dev Patel) has a rush of urgency to track down his biological family. He boots up his computer, loads up Google Earth and his journey begins…

lion-02The first half of this film is a cinematic delight. The way in which the director presents the world that poor Saroo is lost within is remarkable. He allows the audience to look through the eyes of a lost five-year old terrified of this humongous world of ours whilst keeping the camera in the third person. Every bit of emotion expressed by young Pawar is also felt by the watcher; an incredible achievement that is in no small part down to his extraordinary acting ability. They struck gold with his casting as he gives an astoundingly mature performance that actors of any age could learn from. The film is ambitious with its visuals and the crew are successful in what they are trying to achieve with the look and feel of this foreign land that Saroo is overwhelmed by, and it is paced to perfection as your attention never wanders. This film is a PG but it doesn’t pull its punches. Whilst it never goes into graphic detail about what these lost children have to endure, the director deftly presents a world where life can be lonely, desperate, harrowing and brutal without resorting to melodrama or shock…

lion-03…but then it jumps forward twenty years, and as soon as Dev Patel emerges from the ocean you’ll see the film dip in quality drastically from there. That’s not a slight on Patel, who delivers a capable and believable performance as the adult Saroo, but it certainly isn’t Oscar-worthy. He struggles to fill the enormous shoes left by Pawar; ironic considering Pawar is about a quarter of his size! No, the problem with the second half of this film is that it falls apart in most areas where it shone in the first. It’s as if the director got locked in the toilet by the runner, who announced to the cast and crew that he will now be finishing the film and he wanted it done before lunch because he had a date! The pacing is ponderous, the direction and visual style become very generic and the continuity is all over shop! There are times when you haven’t got a clue who is doing what and where, and you don’t care as the film is now so boring! I wanted to scream at Saroo: “Stop moping, get off your laptop and just #@$!* do something!” It’s based on a true story so maybe that was Saroo’s path, but the way in which this is depicted makes it a tedious, exasperating and an almost unbearable watch.

I have never known a film so defined by two halves. If it’s about to start on TV and you have an hour to kill then give it a watch but otherwise steer clear. How this was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar I will never know…



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