Sunday, March 19, 2017

Video review: "Lion"

“Lion” is a prime example of the old saw of the movie not being as good as the book.

Saroo Brierley’s book, “The Long Way Home,” recounted his incredible biography as a boy of India who became separated from his family at a very tender age and ending up raised by adoptive parents in Australia. At around age 30 he became obsessed with finding his biological mother and siblings, and spent years searching Google Earth to find their remote village and be reunited with them.

No hints on how things turned out.

Directed by Garth Davis from a screenplay adaptation by Luke Davies, “Lion” is a solid film but one of the most overpraised of the past year, including six Oscar nominations. One of those, ridiculously, was for star Dev Patel in the supporting actor category.

True, he takes over the adult role of Saroo about halfway through the movie from Sunny Pawar, who is an absolute revelation as the lost orphan. But I still need someone to explain to me how one can play the title character of a film, be the face on the posters and still be a “supporting” actor. A pox on brazen category-hopping.

David Wenham and Nicole Kidman (who scored her own unmerited Oscar nom) play his parents, who also adopted another Indian lad, Mantosh, who has emotional and cognitive problems. One of the things the movie fails to adequately explore his Saroo’s strained relationship with his adoptive brother, which is a discomfiting mix of affection and disgust.

Rooney Mara plays his girlfriend, Lucy, who struggles to relate to Saroo while he’s in the deep throes of his obsession. Priyanka Bose plays Saroo’s biological mother.

I think the first half of the film works better than the second. Saroo’s separation and wandering is a very compelling tale: he and his older brother sneak into a train station, and he ends up locked inside an empty passenger train as it makes a 1,000-mile journey to the other side of India, where they speak a different dialect.

He doesn’t know the name of his village, so he falls into the care of well-meaning orphan authorities, who seem more intent on making him available for adoption by foreigners than performing an exhaustive search for his true family.

“Lion” is an emotional film that sometimes pulls the heartstrings a mite too forcefully.

Bonus features include deleted scenes, production still photos and the “Never Give Up” music video by Sia.



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