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LION

SYNOPSIS: Five-year-old Saroo gets lost on a train which takes him thousands of kilometres across India, away from home and family. Saroo must learn to survive alone in Kolkata, before ultimately being adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty five years later, armed with only a handful of memories, his unwavering determination, and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, he sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home.

Review by Louise Keller:
Loss and belonging are the themes of this incredible true story; it is the simplicity of the storytelling that brings it to life. Most crucial is the establishment of the Indian reality and family connection for five year old Saroo (Sunny Pawar), who suddenly finds himself separated from his brother and left lost and alone. Who would have thought that Google Earth could play the benefactor in this amazing story?

In his feature film debut and armed with a smart screenplay by Luke Davies (Candy, 2006), Garth Davis transports us to India in the first half, allowing us to leisurely become part of Saroo's everyday life. The fact that Pawar is a natural - and adorable to boot - works in the film's favour and Davis directs his young star beautifully. There is minimal dialogue at the outset when we meet Saroo, helping his older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) surreptitiously collecting coal from a moving train and generally helping the family make ends meet. There is a strong connection between the youngster and his mother and we can understand his terror and confusion in the circumstances that leave him alone in Calcutta - 1,600 kilometres from his home. We have watched him sleeping on a flattened cardboard box with homeless children, running from bad situations and feel his pain when he realizes that his family is not able to find him.

By the time we meet Dev Patel as the grown up Saroo, living a privileged life with his adoptive parents in Tasmania 20 years later, we have become intricately involved in the story. There is a slight disconnect as the story straddles time, but Patel delivers just the right tone - and the right accent - as the smart young man embarking on a hotel management course in Melbourne. The moment he sees the brightly coloured traditional Indian sweet Jalebi, a memory is triggered and Saroo's quest to find his family begins. We had seen him crave for these distinctive sweets as a young child.

Nicole Kidman is all heart as Saroo's new mum; the scene when she reveals key moments in her past is one of the film's most moving. David Wenham is solid as his father, and Rooney Mara as Lucy, the girl with whom he falls in love - albeit a thankless role.

The film drags as Saroo begins to question his life and considers searching for his past. But nothing stops the potency of the film's emotional climax, when words are not necessary - or possible. It may not be the overwhelming conclusion that sweeps us away, but it is in keeping with Davis' subtle style. The photos and footage of the real Saroo and his family form a satisfying finale.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

LION (PG)
(Aus, 2016)

CAST: Sunny Pawar, Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, David Wenham

PRODUCER: Iain Canning, Angie Fielder, Emile Sherman

DIRECTOR: Garth Davis

SCRIPT: Luke Davies (Novel by Sarool Brierley, Larry Buttrose)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Greig Fraser

EDITOR: Alexandre de Franceschi

MUSIC: Volker Berterlmann, Dustin O'Halloran

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Chris Kennedy

RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 19, 2016







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