Saturday, December 10, 2016

Movie Review: LION

Lion is a 2016 awards season film about a young boy, Saroo, in India who gets accidentally separated from his home and eventually adopted by a family in Australia and his quest, as an adult, to find his family again. The film is directed by Garth Davis and stars Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, Rooney Mara, and Sunny Pawar. Overall, I didn’t enjoy the film but it has some qualities that might redeem it and make it worthwhile for some audience members.

To speak to the positives at the outset, I think that the film has some good performances. Dev Patel as adult Saroo is excellent. As written, he delivers his character well. Nicole Kidman was also quite good and she actually has moments that made her one of very few characters I really cared about in the story. Finally, young Sunny Pawar who plays young Saroo was extremely solid. His portion was the most believable in the story and I cared much more about the story at that point as a result.

In addition, I think the film has a wonderful sense of place and also a thorough realism. Whether it is the scenes in India or Australia, I felt like I was transported there and that everything was actually real and happening. It also didn’t skip much or take shortcuts (outside of certain noted time gaps) which made the film feel more real still. They also dealt with real language barriers which I think was a big strength as well.

The primary reason I didn’t like this film is because I didn’t like the characters, and thus I didn’t care about what they had going on in the film. For example, though Patel was good, the way his character was written and the choices he made made him extremely unlikeable to me. As a result, when he hit emotional barriers I didn’t feel sympathy, empathize with his choices, or remotely care whether he succeeded or failed at the end of the day. Moreover, this is a film that has a kind of intangible sense of self-importance. It figures it has a really important story to tell and it lingers on certain beats too long that makes it feel much more produced than real which is majorly problematic in a film that aims to be very realistic.

In addition to these problems, it has some story threads that have no payoff or are given insufficient time to make me care about them in the slightest. One in particular involving Saroo’s adopted brother stands out in this regard and was given too much importance for too little payoff.

Overall, I wasn’t a fan of Lion. I do in some ways see what they going for and there is one particular moment of sweetness that did play with my emotions a bit, but I just didn’t care about the characters or their struggles as written, nor did I find that the film manages and wraps up its story points completely.

Ryan’s Score: 5/10

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