Why have so few people seen Lion? It has been out in theaters since Nov. 25, and has gone somewhat unnoticed. When it was one of the nine movies nominated for Best Picture, the majority of viewers questioned what it was and why it was recognized as a top movie.
I first saw Lion this past December with my Mom. I too knew absolutely nothing about it. As the previews were going on, I turned to my mom and whispered, “So is this about a lion? A Zoo movie? A comedy? Sci-Fi?” My mom just laughed and told me to watch the movie.
I realized quickly that I was in for an emotional journey in the heart of India. From the start, it was hard not to fall in love with the young boy, Saroo. He is adorable. Honestly, if I could adopt him right now and give him a hug and become his best friend in the whole world, I would. Wow, the pure thought of young Saroo, played by Sunny Pawar, is making me smile. (Hint: if you have not watched the Oscars yet, find the clip of Jimmy Kimmel lifting Sunny into the air like a lion. It will make your heart melt).
In the film, five-year-old Saroo somehow convinces his older brother, Guddu, to let him tag along on an overnight work trip. Saroo and Guddu lose each other at the train station, and Saroo is left all alone on a train for days. He finally gets off on the streets of Kolkata, 1500 miles away from his home. It is heartbreaking to watch lovable five-year-old Saroo attempt to survive by himself. Viewers are forced to confront the realities of conditions in India, as applied to a young lost boy.
Later on, Saroo is adopted by a couple in Australia. We see some of his upbringing there, then a flash-forward to 20 years later. Grown-up Saroo is played by the extraordinary Dev Patel. Eventually, he starts to question his past: Where was he actually from in India? What happened to Guddu? What happened to his mother? Were they still looking for him?
Without telling you too much of the plot, I will tell you this: Lion is a tear-jerker. You will cry. I did not see a single dry eye in the entire theater, either time that I saw it.
The acting in Lion is phenomenal. I have already told you how fantastic I think Sunny Pawar is. Dev Patel also does a great job: his acting is very passionate and he mastered an Australian accent. Nicole Kidman portrayed Saroo’s adopted mother and exquisitely illustrated the joys and complications of adopting children from India. Rooney Mara did a solid job playing Lucy, who quickly becomes Saroo’s significant other.
The original score was also sensational: it was the perfect, serious music for the movie. I also thought the cinematography was so well done. I will not forget the image of tiny 5-year-old Saroo standing on a post in the busy streets of Kolkata, or the beautiful, seemingly endless images of the deserts in his hometown.
There have been mixed reviews of Lion. I am clearly on the end of the spectrum that thinks Lion is absolutely outstanding. However, I, along with some other critics, will admit that there is a bit of a lag mid-movie. The plot of older Saroo in university searching Google Earth drags on a little too long.
Other critics thought it was a basic storyline over-dramatized by Hollywood and actors who look unrealistically attractive compared to the real people. Some others thought it was an advertisement for Google Earth’s wonders of discovering the world from your computer.
At the end of the film, we see a message about all the children around the world that need help. Critics thought that this was the underlying message and ploy of the movie to get money for children in India. I, however, disagree. I think that the message may be there, but it was not the point of the movie. And, if anything, it just reminded me that there are so many people out there less fortunate than me who need help.
Lion was nominated for a number of awards . At the Academy Awards, it was nominated for Best Picture, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Original score and more. While Lion did not take home any Oscar trophies last weekend, merely its nomination for six awards is a testament to its greatness.
Lion did win awards at the BAFTA Awards, AACTA International Awards, African-American Film Critics Association, American Society of Cinematographers and more.
Lion left me yelling “Saroooo! Sarooooo!” as tears of joy streamed down my face. This amazing true story is still playing at Cinemapolis in the Commons and I highly encourage you to spend a night travelling with our adorable lion, Saroo.
Becky Frank is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.