The emotionally affecting drama Lion is one of the top crowd pleasers of the Holiday season and of the year. Here are the bones of the plot:
- An Indian boy is accidentally separated from his family and lost, ending up in a hellish orphanage.
- He is adopted and raised by a loving Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham).
- As a man, (Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), he sets out on a quest to find his mother and brother in India – a classic Needle in a Haystack search.
- Amazingly, it’s a true story.
Before the screening, I was ready to dismiss Lion as a stereotypical family melodrama, what movies studio called a “women’s picture” in the 1940s. But it’s much more than that. The young man has survivor’s guilt that becomes an obsession, explored through how it affects his relationship with his significant other (Rooney Mara). His adoptive parents have another adopted son – one who is severely emotionally disturbed.
Understandably, the young man is driven by an overwhelming need to give closure to his birth mother. What we don’t expect are the needs of the adoptive mother, and what surprises even our main character is what the adoptive mother does and does not need to be protected from.
Lion is the first feature for director Garth Davis, who has made his name in commercials; as one would expect, he is able in manipulating the audience with images and music, but not in a cheap way. The scene where the main character closes in on his search is exceptional.
Patel is remarkably engaging, and our sympathy with his character drives the movie. The other performances are solid. (Wow – Nicole Kidman is now playing the leading man’s Mom!) The two child actors who play the protagonist and his brother as children, Sunny Pawar and Abhishek Bharate, are exceptional.
When The Wife and I saw Lion, pretty much the entire audience was choked up. Stay all the way through the end credits for even more tears. Lion is available on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and to stream from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.