LION Review – Powerful Stand Out Performances In This Remarkable True Story

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LION, from The Weinstein Company, presents a powerful story of a boy lost in one of the most dangerous cities in the world for children, of escape, of and finally finding hope again decades later.

Directed by Garth Davis, LION stars Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Priyanka Bose, Rooney Mara, Dave Wenham and introducing Sunny Pawar as young Saroo Bierley.

LION opens with a young boy, Saroo, played by Sunny Pawar, playing in the hills near his home in rural India, white butterflies are swirling about when he hears his brother, Guddu, played by newcomer Abhishek Bharate, calling his name.

The two brothers, Saroo and Guddu, are inseparable. This day they are running to board a moving train to steal coal as they are the men in the family. The two earn enough to buy two bags of milk. They run home with the surprise for their mother, Kamla, a beautiful young woman, played by Priyanka Bose, left alone to care for three children.

The family is deeply improvised, so his mother takes on the backbreaking work of carrying rocks, which in India's cast system is nearly at the bottom of the options for women. On this night Guddu, is looking for work at the next town. Saroo, ever the man, begs his brother to take him along.

Relenting Guddu allows him to come along and they finally make it to the train station where he tells his very tried younger brother not to go anywhere. Stay right on the bench, and I'll be back to get you.

Saroo falls asleep and wakes, still alone on the platform, deep in the darkened night, and for a young child the hours of night are long even with dawn one hour away the pitch black causes our Saroo to find his brother. Guddu is nowhere to be found. An empty train is waiting on the tracks, he walks in an empty car and lays down, falling fast again into a deep sleep. Hours later he wakes and the empty train has left the station headed for parts unknown.

Soon our five-year-old Saroo, is crying out to people who can't hear or don't understand as the train slows in villages and never stops. Alone . . the days pass . . and the train never stops.

Finally, pulling into Kolkata Station, the train has taken Saroo 1600 kilometers from his home. A sea of people rush him and suddenly he is on one of the most populated and active train platforms in the world.

India, a land of many languages, religions, and believes in the cast system. India's orphaned children is probably the highest in the world at 12 million, street children, those who regularly live on the streets, and depend on the streets for income is estimated between 400,000 and 800,000. Kolkata, the modern, Calcutta, and Bombay have more than 100,000 each.

The children on the streets of India's cities, and in any city, are faced with the harsh realities of life for the unprotected. With no shelter, they are subject to the elements, daily life is spent foraging through garbage for food and "treasure" anything that will sell.

The vulnerability of child and the worldwide sex trade is also very real, and our Saroo, has a close encounter as an attractive motherly type female sees him and rescues him. Taking him home to her apartment, the first apartment building he has ever been in, she feeds him, bathes him, allows him a good night's sleep, grooms him into trusting her, the next morning he meets a man who explains our Saroo is a good find. At the breakfast, nothing is different, except instead of opening the soda in front of him, it is already opened and she insists that he drink it all. Suddenly, our Saroo bolts from the apartment and again is one the streets.

Saroo ends up in an orphanage, where he is fed, clothed, housed, and relatively safe and certainly off the streets. After a search for his family proves futile, he is adopted to a warm, loving family in Tasmania, Australia Sue and John Brierley, played by Nicole Kidman and Dave Wenham. His pleasure as an adorable only child is short lived as Sue and John adopt a second child, Mantosh, played by Divian Ladwa, slightly autistic and with adjustments problems.

Having the opportunity to screen LION at the recent AFI FEST 2016 presented by AUDI the cast, Nicole Kidman, Dev Patel, Priyanka Bose and the real Saroo Brierley on which the story is based, were all in attendance and participated in a conversation after the screening.

Each of the cast spoke on what brought them to the project and how they connected. Saroo Brierley was asked about his escape from what could have potentially ended in his death. His reply, as in the film, it is portrayed as this very small boy, just watching the groomer, the female, and suddenly like a bolt he is down the stairs and into the streets.

His reply at the questions was simple "gut instinct" he said. "Always trust your gut instincts."

LION is an extraordinary film filled with the courageous journey of a young child who inadvertently gets lost and his incredible journey that takes him back to the town he could barely remember, a mother he never forgot and joined two families whose bond formed by this child, loved so deeply, that time, sorrow, distance, didn't discourage, overwhelm her or intimidate them as he searched twenty-five years later for his first family.

LION, a must-see film, is an outstanding, extraordinary and astonishing journey. On the simplest level as a child escaping the fate of so many street children, of destiny intervening and placing him in a loving, nurturing home, of freedom and strength as his adoptive parents, encouraged, loved and wanted him to pursue his instincts and of google earth mentioned at a party which became his compass, his north star, his hope.

Sunny Pawar steals the show in his first feature film role as young Saroo. His performance, reminiscent of other very young and upcoming talents, should be remembered this January.

Dev Patel plays adult Saroo, the first adopted son of Sue and John. His performance is unlike anything he's done in American film and very different from his recent roles. He takes control of this opportunity and showcases his depth and establishes himself as a solid box office talent.

Nicole Kidman is stunning and solid, she brings all her experience, even that of her personal life as an adoptive parent to this role. Once again she delivers an Oscar worthy performance.

LION opens November 25, 2017. See this film.

Image courtesy of AFI FILM FEST 2016 presented by Audi Red Carpet LION Arrivals coverage.

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