PG-13
120 Minutes
Released November 25th

The story in the film Lion is so well told and beautifully acted that you will feel you have become part of this extended family of extraordinary people, people who have been drawn together by chance and by will. The true story behind the movie is so full of drama and so moving in itself, that first-time director Garth Davis did not need to do much embellishing. Lion is his first full-length feature and he has done a fantastic job with it.

In this tale the characters are not separated by walk of life, color of skin, education or continent. All of those definitions evaporate during the telling of the arduous experiences endured by the main character, “Saroo”. Exquisitely brought to life by Sunny Pawar, Saroo is a four-year-old child who has known constant danger. He must do heroic things just to get a meager meal. However, as children do, he takes it all in stride, and is able to see fun and beauty in his daily adventures. There are many types of heroism in this story, which is all the more remarkable because it is true. It was no surprise to me to find out that some 4000 boys auditioned for the role of Saroo. It is another credit to the director that he was able to pick out talented children for these important roles.

Saroo and his older brother “Guddu” played by Abhishek Bharate, dominate the first few minutes of the film and are so good that you don’t want to take your eyes off them. These two children had never worked on a film before and did not speak a word of English. Most of their scenes are spoken in Bengali or Hindu, and many have very little dialogue. Yet there is never a sense that you are not an immediate part of the thoughts and actions.

The real Saroo was forced to spend weeks alone on the streets of Kolkata. Davis has handled these scenes with a fluid sense of time passing and has added touches that provide realism. The sound “design” by Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O’Halloran adds extraordinary richness to the tapestry of environments, both geographical and emotional, that define this movie. Note that both of these supremely talented musicians are “outside the box” of the usual film composer’s background.

In a post screening Q&A, Nicole Kidman, who plays “Sue Brierly” in the film, noted that Lion was a low budget production, which makes the beauty of the film all that much more remarkable. She bonded with Sunny by playing cricket with him – a common language for the two of them. Dev Patel, who plays Saroo as an adult, considers the script for Lion the best he’s ever read. He worked out daily to develop a tougher physique and learned an Australian accent for the role – he spent eight months on preparation. Indeed, he is almost unrecognizable in this role from his previous work.

Lion is without question a worthwhile film to see – one of the best of 2016.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com