Sunday, February 19, 2017

Lion (2016) - 9 stars out of 10

Lion (2016) - 9 stars out of 10
1500th Review

“Lion” is an ode to accomplishing the impossible.  This unconventional journey is so unbelievable that if it wasn’t a true story, it would be way too farfetched for audiences.  It is an amazing example of how the Internet has created endless possibilities for communication and research in a way that changes lives.  From the moment that I first saw the trailer, this became one of my most anticipated films of the year.  It actually did not meet my expectations, but my frustration with this year’s weak Oscar class has led me to approach many of the films with high hope-filled expectations that this will be “the one” to redeem 2016.  The storytelling grew a bit muddled at the start of Saroo and Lucy’s relationship, shifting focus away from the adoption and search for his family.  Still, the film hits all of the right emotional notes to bring this story to life.  The train sequence and crowded train station in West Bengal are a heart wrenching introduction to Saroo's turbulent journey.  The sad piano score by Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka highlights each dramatic moment throughout the film, especially the ending scene which I consider to be the most beautiful moment in cinema for 2016.  The score was nominated for an Oscar, as were the performances by Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman.  Their acting drives the second half of the film through the strong emotions of sadness and pain, but the real standout is 8-year-old Sunny Pawar.  At first glance, it seems odd that Patel’s nomination is for Supporting Actor but it makes sense as Pawar carries the entire first half of the film on his shoulders.  His chemistry with Abhishek Bharate (who plays his older brother Guddu) and ability to advance the story through his mannerisms (since a 5-year-old character in a country that doesn’t speak his language leads to limited dialogue) is as good as many veteran actors.  I understand Rooney Mara’s presence in the film because this is a true story, but Saroo’s disconnect from his mother AND his girlfriend is redundant in shaping his character.  The Oscar-nominated cinematography does a brilliant job of capturing the landscape of India, the grim areas of Calcutta, and the beauty of Tasmania, but my favorite part of the entire film may be the title.  I spent a good deal of time wondering why the film is called "Lion," and saving the explanation for the final moment of the film enhances its poignancy tenfold.  It was an amazing final thought at the end of the film.  “Lion” is not a flawless film but it is a film that families can enjoy together, its incredible true story must be seen to believed, and the final result is an amazing buildup to the most beautiful moment in cinema for 2016.

[Pictured: Dev Patel may be the name attached to the film, but the real star is Sunny Pawar as he acts far beyond his age and experience]

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