Lion Screen 69 of 12 reviews

Lion

2016

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  • Davis uses close-ups sparingly and hits no false notes; cinematographer Greig Fraser (Zero Dark Thirty) creates a child's perspective by setting the camera at the hero's eye level and conveys the grandeur of India through sweeping panoramic and overhead shots.

  • Lion does exactly what the movie version of this real-life saga (based on Brierley’s memoir, A Long Way Home) should do. It demonstrates the power of an individual to reclaim his past and to merge legacies from two different cultures. Because it’s cathartic and optimistic, it also leaves us remarkably clearheaded.

  • Comparisons will be drawn with Slumdog Millionaire, but this is a far grittier pearl. Probing insistently at the tangled ideas of family and brotherhood through Greig Fraser’s elegant camera, Lion proves to be a powerful and distressing reminder of how fragile and disposable a child’s life can be.

  • It has familiar Western actors to attract Western viewers, but they never come close to dominating the film. It treats Saroo’s entire story with equal screentime, so one part is never more important than the other. And it’s pretty, thanks to filmmaker Garth Davis — who previously handled half of the directing duties on Jane Campion’s miniseries “Top of the Hill” — without becoming a travelogue.

  • By the time Lion swings back in the direction of more commanding sentiments, culminating in Sue’s affectingly frank description of an adoptive mother’s pain, the film appears smaller, more formulaic, than the sum of its parts, though Saroo’s return to India is certainly rousing. Despite underusing both Kidman and Rooney Mara, as Saroo’s girlfriend, Davis’s direction at least gestures at a fuller understanding of transnational identities.

  • By the time Lion has really begun, it already seems half over. That’s not to say the picture isn’t satisfying in a straight-to-the-gut way... No wonder the older Saroo misses the warmth of his first family so much, even though he can barely remember them. He hears them calling him home. We want to go back there, too.

  • Both [Lion and Slumdog Millionaire] are based on true stories about Indian children from poor backgrounds who endure transformative experiences that catapult them to new worlds, but here Patel must convey a more complex transition... It’s the rare sappy finale that doesn’t force the feels; they’re built into the drama so well that Davis only needs to connect the dots and let the material do the rest.

  • Google Earth has finally made a movie, which only seems surprising at first, because while it’s hard to believe this story actually happened, it’s easy to believe this film was made... Watching [Patel's character] search Google Earth for his hometown is boring, but it posits the West as a place where people look into computers all day, while in the developing world people carry rocks for a living. This stark distinction would not pass muster in a film made by UNICEF.

  • The film's fundamentally chronological structure makes for a somewhat sluggish initial half hour or so; it would likely have been more effective to open with Saroo in adulthood and flash back to his childhood throughout. Once Patel shows up to kick off Saroo’s seemingly impossible quest, however, only the truly hard-hearted will remain unmoved. The film is spikier than you might expect, based on the synopsis; there’s a joyful reunion, but it’s tinged with genuine sorrow and regret.

  • The movie turns Brierly's specific story into a sweeping universal, one whose implications become still more odious as it’s fed into the festival of largely white liberal self-congratulation that is the end-of-year awards derby.

  • Patel and Pawar’s performances are so downright charming that if the affable character of Saroo engages you, you will lose yourself in his deeply repressed emotions. The film is problematic, however, in its narrative structure and the shoehorned-in devices typically found in prestige films.

  • Dev Patel plays college-age Saroo as a brooding lost soul, haunted by an obscured past but too stubborn to share his troubles. Histrionic narrative potholes involving Saroo's love interest (Rooney Mara, bored as ever) make Lion even chunkier and dishonest. Even worse, the great cinematographer Greig Fraser (Zero Dark Thirty) is wasted thoroughly, his images relegated to bland horizon shots and wide-angle poverty porn.

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