Lion (2016)

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Best Motion Picture of the Year

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Best Adapted Screenplay

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score)

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Lion is one of the most beautiful films I have seen this year, and I urge you all to watch it if you haven’t already done so.

The story, the screenplay, the acting and the musical score are all elements of brilliance that bring together this phenomenal tale. The film is based on the true story of Saroo Brierely, a five year old boy who became separated from his brother and wound up in Calcutta, 1500KM from his home. Saroo left behind his labourer mother, his baby sister and his elder brother who was sadly killed by a train the night that Saroo became lost.

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There wasn’t a minute of this film that felt overdone, and portrayals of both child Saroo (Sunny Pawar) and the elder Saroo (Dev Patel) are played excellently. In fact, it’s saddening to see that Sunny Pawar hasn’t been acknowledged by the Academy for his performance. At 8 years old, Sunny Pawar would have took Quvenzhané Wallis’ title of youngest nominee at the Academy Awards (Wallis was nine when she was nominated for best lead actress after her performance in Beasts Of The Southern Wild [2013])

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Sunny Pawar beat over 4000 other boys for the part, and in return gave the most honest, heartpanging performance. I can’t imagine any other actor that could justify the strength and courage that the real Saroo beheld. Hands down Sunny Pawar is one of the best child actors I have ever seen before. He had no previous acting experience and couldn’t speak English at the time of filming. He built a bond up with Nicole Kidman and David Wenham by playing cricket – scenes which were later used within the film itself.

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From a beautiful little boy, to a equally as beautiful young man, as Dev Patel swoops in for the Saroo baton to carry on the role in his older years. Dev Patel has the same GORGEOUS smile that our mini Saroo has and does just as well with the job. It’s no surprising he landed himself his first Academy Award nomination for his work on the film. From Skins to the Oscars. It’s hard to believe just how successful that first generation of Skins actors have become, but the kind of talent that Dev Patel holds is intangible. Dev Patel put everything he had into this role, and changed a lot physically. He built up his muscle mass and adapted the Tasmanian Accent. The accent was a little off at times but nothing so bad that it was completely questionable. He also visited the rural village that Saroo was brought up for his first six years, and he made the same train journey that Saroo made too.

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As previously mentioned, the film is split into two halves. We have Saroo aged five, lost in Calcutta and trying to survive along its menacing streets. We also see the horrors he faced in the hands of people along the way, including the brutal orphanage he winds up in (which thankfully eventually leads to his adoption.) Towards the end of this first half, we are introduced to the adoptive parents AKA Sue and John Brierely played lovingly by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham. Nicole Kidman was allegedly handpicked for the role by Sue Brierely herself, and the two mothers bonded over both having adopted children. At first, I felt that Kidman was an obvious choice for the film, but after reading more into the circumstances of her casting, I warmed to the idea and enjoyed that this is why Sue wanted to have her cast.

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The second half of the film is where we see Saroo coping as a young adult, and dealing with the guilt of knowing where he came from and what he has now. It’s certainly strange, knowing what kind of life he used to lead and then seeming him in the present day, wearing fashionable nude tones, wearing JEANS! He follows the ‘normal’ life of a well to do youth. He leaves home, heads to university, and this is where we see the first instance of his regression begin to happen. Director Garth Davis would serve Indian food and play sounds of Indian background street noise to help insinuate former filming memories (Dev’s scenes in India were shot first) so that there was a constant back and forth contradiction in Dev’s mind. As what would have been happening with Saroo at this time. One of my favourite scenes is where Saroo is at a gathering whilst at Uni, and his friend serves up a traditional Indian dish – Jalebi’s. As soon as Saroo smells this we can see him breathing in his entire lost past and it’s a truly beautiful moment. We’ve all had moments where a particular scent has triggered an emotion or memory of some sort. It’s called odor-evoked autobiographical memory, and it can be extremely powerful in regressing us back to a certain moment or time in our life. To think how big of a throwback this would have been for Saroo is astonishing, and this phenomenon is amazing in that  it was the turning key into his decision to track his past. In that scene Dev Patel does an incredible job of the initial realisation of what the food was and what it reminded him of. His acting is certainly worthy of a nomination, in particular in this scene.

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The supporting cast provide notable performance in the film as well. Priyanka Bose stars as Saroos biological mother. Priyanka journeyed to the village as well as Dev Patel to meet Saroos mother. She said that this would help to internalise her portrayal and she learnt more about her life after Saroo vanished. Priyanka Bose is a beautiful, beautiful actress and did a wonderful job of capturing the maternal love and strength that his mother held for Saroo. Divian Ladwa appears as Saroos adoptive brother Mantosh Brierley. We see that Mantosh’ transition to the westernised world was a lot more difficult than Saroos. It’s truly saddening to watch and envisage the dangers that he would have encountered before his adoption. Finally Rooney Mara stars as ‘Lucy’ Saroos American girlfriend who encourages the search for his biological mother. Rooney Maras performance is slightly underwhelming and nothing too out of the ordinary but she plays nicely against Dev Patel.

I highly encourage everybody to watch this inspiring, heartwarming film. I cried about 17 times during the whole thing, it just pulls on every damn heartstring. 80,000 children go missing each year in India and there are 11million children living on the streets. The campaign #LionHeart launched in line with the release of the film as an overseen collaboration by See-Saw Films, The Weinstein Company and The Charity Network. #LionHeart supports charities such as Railway Children which works with children who live on the streets/railway stations to help prevent them from being exploited. Magic Bus is another charity that #LionHeart works with which educated children living in poverty to help give them the enabling life skills to help get them out of their current situations.

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[all images belong to The Weinstein Company]

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