Directed by Garth Davis
Country: Australia / USA / UK
I can’t deny it’s remarkable that Garth Davis’ directorial debut feature, “Lion”, has been nominated for six Academy awards - best film, best actor and actress in a supporting role, cinematography, original score, and adapted screenplay.
Regardless the substance of the story itself, this fact-based drama, written by Luke Davies and adapted from the non-fiction book “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierley, didn’t work for me.
The main reason for that comes from the fact that Davis’ approach, more gimmicky than influential, veers the drama into syrupy territory.
Saroo (Sunny Pawar) is a 5-year-old who follows his brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) everywhere.
Living in the ancient city of Khandwa, India, they seem to take huge pleasure in roaming aimlessly through the city, riding dangerously on top of trains, and collecting coal to sell. They rejoice to see their mother (Priyanka Bose) happily smiling. She's a caring, hard-working woman who carries rocks on the parched mountains.
A certain day, Saroo insists on accompanying his brother to the work. They take a train and leave at a packed station. Once at the destiny, too sleepy to walk, he stays at the station waiting for Guddu to come back. The latter never returned and Saroo takes a wrong train home, ending up in the highly populated Calcutta, 1600 km away from his village.
Despite lost and hungry, he’s smart enough to escape a few dangerous situations until being conducted to an orphanage. Several attempts to know the name of his hometown and communicate with the family fail and Saroo is sent to Hobart, Australia, where he’s welcomed by his new foster parents, Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John Brierley (David Wenham). The couple, not content with just one, adopts a second child, far more troublesome than Saroo.
20 years later, we find our central character (now played by Dev Patel), with a graduation in hotel management and surrounded by friends and a beautiful girlfriend (Rooney Mara). However, he's more and more engulfed by this urgent necessity of discovering his roots, his family, and where he came from.
Because miracles exist, he manages to find the place, Ganesh Talai, which he mispronounced in his childhood, and reconnect with his biological mother and sister through Google Earth.
Unexciting, the film was never too deep and as a consequence, I became indifferent along the way.
Mr. Davis didn’t spend enough time building the supporting characters and his big bet, the dramatic side, was uninspired and often staged with a tedious sweetness.
If expertly handled instead of manipulative, this amazing true story would have given a magical film.