Everyone says that modern GPS and digital technology are wiping out jeopardy and making storytelling impossible. Well, that is very much not the case with Lion, the extraordinary true story of how a foundling Indian boy, estranged from his home village by the cruellest of fate and growing to adulthood far from home, used Google Maps to find his mother.
Screenwriter Luke Davies and first-time feature director Garth Davis (known before this for Jane Campion’s TV drama Top of the Lake) have responded to this incredible situation with a heartfelt film combining intelligent attention to detail with a necessary sense of their story’s simplicity and strength. Dev Patel brings his A-game to the leading role, newcomer Sunny Pawar is wonderful as his character’s younger self and Nicole Kidman gives a very decent performance as the adoptive mother.
Pawar plays Saroo, a little Indian kid who roams the streets with his brother; they get split up at the railway station as night falls; not knowing his way back, Saroo decides to get some sleep on a stationary train. He wakes up to find to his horror the train has started up and is now thousands of miles away in Calcutta, where he cannot speak the language and cannot remember the official grownup name for his village. He is placed with kindly adoptive parents in Tasmania (Kidman and David Wenham) but is haunted by the need to find his mother, and finally discovers that his laptop can help him.
This big-hearted film does full justice to the horror, the pathos and the drama of his postmodern odyssey.