Tuesday, January 17, 2017
There's always one or two movies in the Oscar season that sneak into a bunch of awards races despite not being super well known to the general public. Last year that movie was "Room." I don't think many casual movie-goers knew much about "Room" until it showed up in the best picture nominations and started winning awards. I think that "Lion" is that movie this year. Oscar nominations are coming up on January 24 and I believe that this is going to make it in to several of the big categories. Yet I predict that many casual movie goers will look at that list and be like, "What the heck is 'Lion'?" Well, I'm here to answer that before that question comes up. "Lion" is a very heart-warming, delightful, emotional film that needs to be seen. I went into the movie completely blind as to what the movie was about, so if you would like to do the same, just know that this movie is fantastic and you'll love it. Feel free to exit this review and go see it, then come back and read what I had to say. If you need to know a little more about what this movie is before you go see it, you can look at the trailer if you so desire or you can finish reading this review! It's up to you!
While I can't remember exact ages of the characters in the film, Sunny Pawar is the little boy that plays Saroo and he is eight years old. Like Jacob Tremblay in "Room," this little boy is phenomenal in this movie. He is able to perfectly encapsulate the emotions of a little boy who tragically ends up lost. The movie becomes even more tragic when he boards a train to sleep in, only to end up stuck in that train as it takes off, taking him a long ways away from his home with absolutely no idea how to get back as he's too young to remember the exact name of the city he lives in. Saroo isn't a quiet little kid. He's a very talkative little guy with a cute voice, but like every little boy, when you end up being around a bunch of strangers in a foreign place, you become scared and super shy. Thus making it impressive that little Sunny Pawar is able perfectly capture that wide range of emotion in a little boy. If we still had that best juvenile award at the Oscars, which existed from 1934 to 1961 and awarded the best actor or actress under the age of 18, Sunny Pawar would definitely be my choice. He's just so adorable and manages to pull have such an emotional performance with this tragic story that will make it so you definitely want to have your box of tissues with you as you watch this movie.
Speaking of acting, I knew that Dev Petal and Nicole Kidman were supposed to be in this movie. They have been getting a lot of Oscar buzz and, outside a major shock, will be given best supporting actor and best supporting actress nominations accordingly. The opening credits also claimed that I would be treated to another Rooney Mara performance. But as I was sitting watching this movie about this lost boy in India, I began to wonder where in the heck are Dev, Nicole and Rooney? I was excited to see all three of them knock it out of the park like they always do, but they weren't showing up. I suppose that's why Dev and Nicole are getting supporting acting buzz as opposed to lead acting buzz. But then it happened. I didn't keep track of how far into the movie we got before the three of them showed up, but it happened when we jumped 25 years into the future. I don't want to say too much about this part of the movie, but needless to say, Saroo never finds home as a young child and is instead adopted by an Australian couple. Yup. Nicole Kidman is his adopted mother and it's David Wenham playing his adopted father. Rooney Mara is Saroo's girlfriend when he's older.
There's a lot more to be said about "Lion," but given that I went into the movie mostly blind, I want to save the rest of this fantastic little movie for you to discover on your own as there are a lot of layers to this film with some great themes to discuss. But needless to say, this is an absolutely heartwarming, emotional tale that will leave you both crying and glowing in happiness at the same time. My hat is off to director Garth Davis as this is his feature-length directorial debut. Man, what a first movie. With the time jump as well as a cast full of young children, there's a lot of pressure on the shoulders of a director to make a movie like this work. You have to make sure you get the best out of the child actors and you also have to make sure Sunny and Dev are in sync with one another as to make it believable that they are they are playing the same character. I think Davis handles this with perfection and this I'll be on the lookout for what he has up his sleeve next. And of course a big round of applause goes to every actor in this movie for making this work. With "Lion" I feel like I found a hidden gem and thus I hope all of you make an effort to see it. I'm giving "Lion" a 9/10.