Written by Nelson Cumming
January is the month of movie dread. There is never enough money at the box office to warrant a big blockbuster movie and it is also too far away from nomination season to warrent releasing great masterpieces. Fortunatly, in this context, Australians get movies about a fortnight later than Americans do. That is why when movies Lion come out in the middle of January, I cherish them.
Lion is one of those movies that tries to tug the heartstrings through an uplifting story. I liked this movie, but I am starting to get tired of typical plot conventions of the genre. Lion is undeniably a conventional story and for the first two-thirds of the movie were just that with the last thirty minutes being spectacular.
Saroo is an Indian boy (Sunny Pawar) living in poverty with his brother. He loses his brother in the middle of a train station and has traveled more than 1,500 kilometers away from home. The rest of the story takes place over many years as Saroo is adopted by Australian parents (Nicole Kidman and Davie Wenham) and turns into an adult (Dev Patel). He still yearns to find his home.
The great thing about Lion is that is achieves everything it is set out to do. The main problem with Lion is needlessly hammering the themes it’s trying to convey. It, therefore, is not a tightly made film and it dragged for a little bit. Because of that, I could not stop thinking of Slumdog Millionare being it’s superior counterpart
That being said, the last 30 minutes are absolutely fantastic. Who would have thought that something like a software application could bring a lot of drama to a story? It goes to show that there are no limits when it comes to filmmaking, you just have to smart about implementing ideas to the big screen.
The other big thing that works in Lion is Dav Patel. It is one of the rare moments that someone knows how to speak in an Australian accent. It has been a minor thing that has bothered me for awhile in movies these days. From Tarantino in Django Unchained to one of the comedic skits in Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and finally to Jai Courtney in Suicide Squad. Finally we get a guy who doesn’t play an Australian sterotype
Patel has made his character borderline obsessive compulsive about his desire to find the location of his family. Despite this, Patel never comes off as a creep, nor does he come off as trying too hard. He finds the line of being very conflicted and angry while being likable and hospitable. Seeing the way it plays out, Patel acts like a human being. That is a compliment because I believed it and that is the ultimate goal in a movie like this.
Because of the underwhelming editing and some of the eye-rolling cliches in the first half of the movie, I cannot say Lion is in the league of best pictures of the year. I am not even sure it will get an Oscar nomination if there are only 5 slots for best picture for which I am sure was a big goal (We will know soon enough). Nevertheless, Lion more than outweighs its weaknesses with great acting and cinematography.****