This Lion could be king at the Oscars.

It’s almost time for the Academy Awards and in an effort to get myself and everyone ready for the Oscars, I’m doing an Oscar Watch review for all the best picture nominees. You can catch my reviews for La La Land, Hell or High Water, Moonlight, and Hidden Figures by clicking on their names. You can also catch my Oscar predictions article by clicking on this hyperlink.  Next up on the list, Lion!

Gut wrenching.  Heartbreaking.  Words cannot fully articulate quite how this movie makes you feel emotionally but I am going to try in this review.  I’m not usually that person that cries in movies but Lion had me on the cusp several times.  Over 80,000 children go missing in India each year. It would stand to reason that some of these children have incredible stories. In the art of storytelling, they say the best tales are the ones that move you the most.  This film will definitely have that impact. 

Lion is the story of a young Indian boy named Saroo.  His family is poor and they live in the northern part of India.  Saroo’s mother is a day laborer.  Saroo and his brother Guddu do odd jobs here and there to help support their mother and feed themselves. It is a challenging live but this family loves each other, easing their burden.  One ill-fated night, Guddu leaves town for a week long job working the night shift, but also takes Saroo along with him after Saroo pleads with him.  The brothers take the train to the next town over apparently.  You can tell this won’t work out well since Saroo is a little kid desiring sleep over his promise to help Guddu with his night shift work.  Guddu tells Saroo to wait for him at the train station while he goes works for the night.  Saroo falls asleep on a train bench only to wake up several hours later at an eerily quiet train station.  Wondering if his brother is around he wanders on to an empty train which then starts to take off.  Saroo can’t get off the train and before he knows it,  he ends up 1600 kilometers away in Kolkata, West Bengal.  Not knowing the language or anyone there, Saroo ends up as a homeless child before being taken into some sort of foster house for abandoned or missing children.  Saroo is so young he can’t even correctly state the name of the town where he is from.  A few months pass before the search for Saroo’s family is called off and he is then adopted by an Australian couple. Not having any other options, Saroo embraces this life in Australia with his new parents who are really good people. 25 years pass eventually and Saroo is now an adult.  Living a privileged life, Saroo is still haunted by memories of his family.  Being an educated adult, Saroo uses the technology of Google maps to help him track down his hometown where he can hopefully reunite with his family.

There are so many things to love about this film.  I really enjoyed the beautiful landscapes of India and Australia that are presented.  You literally feel transported to the small town where Saroo is from and then later to the vast, harsh urban environment of Kolkata where he ends up lost.  The story keeps you invested in Saroo’s journey the whole way even while taking two tonally different forms in each half of the film. This is brilliant in helping to experience the major differences between Saroo’s youth and his life as an adult.   Sunny Pawar, the young Saroo actor, really captures the innocence of the young child.   Dev Patel,  as adult Saroo, makes you feel the emotional burden of wanting to reunite with your real family…no matter how much you love the parents who took care of you.  This leads us to Nicole Kidman and David Wenham who play the couple that ultimately adopts Saroo.  The humanity and compassion that they bring to their roles are really moving.  Scenes featuring Nicole Kidman and young Saroo were especially touching.  I would say Nicole Kidman’s performance is definitely worthy of winning Best Supporting Actress. All in all, everyone really does a incredible job at making you feel something for all the characters.

Here are some of my final thoughts on this amazing movie.  Lion is based on a true story. This movie is  helping to support the plight of missing street children around the world. Find out more details about that at http://lionmovie.com/ . While being a remarkably sad story, it has uplifting moments.  However you will leave with a longing in your heart that you want to help unfortunate children too.  What a powerful way to bring awareness to one of the sad realities of our world.  The advocation for technology is also impactful in this film. It’s easy to notice the stark contrast between a heavily populated West Bengal where no one seems to have a cell phone or computer during Saroo’s childhood to the modern day in Australia when adult Saroo can use Google Maps on his laptop to try and track down his hometown. These days almost every kid seems to have a cell phone in America. How much easier would it have been for young Saroo to find home if only he had a cell phone?  Many a sleepless nights could have been avoided for sure. Ultimately this movie is a most worthy nominee for Best Picture along with its other nominations. Capable of pulling in some Oscars it is one I urge everyone to see.

Grade: A

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