Lion Review
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During award season—those last couple of months of the movie-going year—we see a handful of holiday blockbusters and a whole lot of heavy dramas. It’s also a time for moving biographies—like the story of a boy’s decades-long journey to return to his family in Lion.

Lion follows the true story of five-year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar), who lives in a village in India with his family until, one night, while looking for work with his older brother, he ends up on a decommissioned train that carries him to the streets of Calcutta. After months of fighting for survival on the dangerous city streets, he’s taken in and eventually adopted by an Australian couple. But then, as a young man, Saroo (now played by Dev Patel) becomes obsessed with his past, and he’s determined to trace his journey and reunite with the Indian family he left behind.

Saroo’s story is a heartbreaking one—the story of a little boy who’s left to fend for himself after a series of events takes him a thousand miles from his home, to a big, scary city where he doesn’t even speak the language. You don’t have to be the parent of a young child (like me) to be absolutely devastated by his journey—both by his terrifying experiences and by the fear and grief that his mother must be experiencing as she searches for her missing son.

This adorable young actor gives a captivating performance. At first, he’s playful and precocious, but then he owns each scene with his often silent sadness. As the world races on around him, he stands out—this one small, lonely child with the sad, expressive eyes. And while you’ll wait for something good to happen to him, you’ll have to watch as he goes from one hardship to another before he’s given any kind of hope—and, even then, he doesn’t get the outcome that he wants.

But this isn’t just the story of a little boy who loses his family; it’s also the story of a young man who still feels the loss decades later—who becomes absolutely consumed by his need for answers after connecting with Indian students at his school. This part of the film isn’t quite as solid as the beginning, and some parts of the story work better than others; for instance, Rooney Mara’s role as Saroo’s college girlfriend seems entirely unnecessary. But Patel gives the grown-up Saroo the same strength and charm as his younger counterpart—and he gives a noteworthy performance that carries the film to its emotional conclusion.

Lion takes viewers on a fascinating journey from village to city streets to the seaside and back again. But it wouldn’t be quite as captivating without its talented stars. Both make the film a moving adventure that’s well worth embarking on.

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