Film No. 75 (2016) December 17th. 10.30 AM LUNA PALACE, Leederville.
"I had another family, a mother, a brother, I can still see their faces" (Saroo's (Dev Patel) reaction to Lucy's (Rooney Mara) enquiry about his anxiety).
Those who remember the closing scenes of The Killing Fields (1984) will recall the moving reunion when Sydney embraces Pran at the Red Cross station on the Cambodian / Vietnamese border. Well, Lion presents a similar emotion fuelled conclusion, but for me, it's twice as heartfelt. Given this comparison, Lion does not reach the standards of the afore mentioned classic.
Based on the memoir, A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley, Lion retells, in two halves, Saroo's quest to allay his real mother's anxiety at the fate of her son. I've described the heartfelt conclusion but it's the first hour in the hands of 5 year old Saroo so brilliantly played by Sunny Pawer which captures our attention. Young Saroo wending his way through the slums of Calcutta (as it was known then) trying to re-unite with his brother has us willing him to be safe.
Dev Patel takes up the second half of Saroo's story from Tasmania, Australia. While unlucky to lose contact with his mother and brother on that fateful night his luck turns when he's adopted by Tasmanian couple Sue and John Brierley. Saroo spents the next 20 years without the stress of poverty in middle class Australia. The development of Saroo's western family link is not as thorough as his journey as a 5 year old. We are not as connected to the Australian family unit as perhaps first time feature director Garth Davis would have liked.
Girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara) is the rock a determined Saroo leans on while he tries to find his mother and brother, knowing their stress at not knowing where he is must be excruciating. Mara is her usual fresh faced self, she's the perfect rock and it's this relationship in the back half of the film which resonates. I couldn't beg, borrow or steal a tissue as the final scenes closed in. Let me tell you, those final scenes are moving, but the image which remains is the face of Pawer, our 5 year old Saroo, he's the reason we become so invested. 9GUMS.