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KIIS Reviews Nicole Kidman's New Film Lion

The term “Oscars Buzz” is attached to films all the time, yet it’s been a long while since I have felt the need to use it. At last, I’m delighted to deem Lion as “Oscars Buzz”.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the best film I have seen, but, it certainly had many of the best qualities I have ever seen in any film.

For starters, it has many powerful undertones including family, loyalty, the truth behind adoption, and an in depth look at the extreme poverty facing millions of people in India. This film stirs up so many emotions without ever coming close to exploiting the true story behind it.

The heartbreaking story is based on the real life struggles of Saroo, brilliantly played by 8 year old Sunny Pawar in one of the best performances by a child actor I have ever seen. This delightful kid makes you laugh and cry but most importantly, he completely transports you to that time and place with an incredibly believable performance.

Saroo is just 5 years old when we are introduced to him. Living in unimaginable poverty, I was immediately moved with how happy Saroo and his entire family are. They are so close with one another, it’s a bond so strong that many of us could only imagine.

In a cruel twist of fate Saroo is separated from his best friend and brother and loses his way home. It is then that we learn the enormity of India and the scale of poverty that is so truly demonstrated.

After a period of time fending for himself on the streets, 5 year old Saroo is adopted by an Australian couple and is moved to Tassie. Scared and protesting that he wants to find his mother, Saroo takes the journey to Australia with no expectations.

Greeted by his adopted parents Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John (David Wenham), the initial scenes are a little cringe worthy and almost weird as they seem too engrossed in the child. It soon becomes clear that the discomfort is because you are watching incredibly powerful emotions of a couple who desperately wanted a child and more to the point, wanted to save a child.

Nicole Kidman nails this part as the adoptive mother in what I can categorically say is her best film yet (although, Dead Calm will always hold a special place in my heart). I never once looked at the screen and thought “that’s Nicole!” I completely bought into Nicole acting Sue. The role could very easily have been overacted but there just wasn’t a hint of that. I am not sure if it was the link to Nicole’s own adoptive children or how deeply she was touched by this story as she was explaining to me at the Sydney premiere but whatever the driver, I can’t imagine the role being played by anyone else.

As he grows in his new life of privilege, Saroo is played by Dev Patel. Whilst I also can’t imagine anyone else doing the role any greater justice, I have to say I never really saw Dev as Saroo, just as Dev. Now this may well be because you can’t help but form a bond and love for little Saroo (Sunny Pawar). Although Dev’s acting was overshadowed by Kidman and Pawar, without question it was still a great performance. It’s in his twenties that the powerful story of adoption and the yearning for his real family shoots Saroo straight in the heart.

Highlighting the struggles, or at least the hurdles adopted families’ face, makes you really feel for both the adoptive parents and the children, understanding why they aren’t always content no matter how great the adoptive upbringing is.

As incredible as the story is thus far it’s the search for his family that makes you take notice of the scale of despair and poverty across India in a way that you have never really thought.

Even with the marvels of technology and communication, it highlights that it’s what happens on the ground in India that is separating so many children from loving homes.

You are taken on a journey with Saroo to find his family and you feel every excruciating moment with him. You will laugh, and you will absolutely cry. You will also become outraged at the conditions people are living in - to the point where you will feel like there has to be more you can do to help!

A couple of weeks on from watching Lion, there are parts of this film that still haunt me and live with me. I can’t help but wonder if there is more I could be doing. It is an incredibly powerful film that combines impeccable acting with superb directing and breathtaking cinematography.

Do yourself a favour and see this film ASAP.

John Caldwell

5 thumbs up!

Image: IMDB

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