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Lion is a drama based on the nonfiction book written by Saroo Brierley entitled A Long Way Home (which was based on his own experiences). The film is produced by Iain Canning (The King's Speech), Angie Fielder (Wish You Were Here), and Emile Sherman (Mr. Holmes). It was nominated for several 2017 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
A young Saroo (Sunny Pawar) is separated from his family and ends up on his own on the streets of Calcutta after being told by his older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) to wait for his return. Separated from both his brother and mother Kamla (Priyanka Bose), Saroo becomes a lost child who cannot be reunited with his family despite attempts by others to help him. Saroo's attempts to explain where he lives aren't successful and his family cannot be located.
Saroo gets another chance at having a family when the Australian couple Sue Brierley (Nicole Kidman) and John Brierley (David Wenham) adopt him and welcome him into their home. A now adult Saroo (Dev Patel) has grown up in Australia with his adoptive parents and adopted brother Mantosh (Divian Ladwa). Saroo attends college, where he does well, and he meets his girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara). Even though Saroo loves his adoptive family, he wants to know what happened to his mother and brother. He discovers a tool called Google Earth and begins to search for his old home again after 25 years away.
The performances are extraordinary. Sunny Pawar delivers a stunning performance as the young Saroo. The emotional depth and richness of his performance helps elevate the filmmaking to even greater heights. The film largely works so well because of his deep performance. He is matched by the excellent performance by Dev Patel, who plays the adult Saroo. It is in both performances that the film finds such exquisite power. Nicole Kidman, who in real life is an adoptive parent, delivers a deeply personal performance as a mother who cares immensely for her children.
The film has excellent production aesthetics that can be seen throughout. The production design work done by Chris Kennedy (The Road, The Proposition) adds to the film's authenticity. The costumes designed by Cappi Ireland (Animal Kingdom, The Rover) are likewise authentic and believable for the characters and well reflect the different cultures.
The score composed by Hauschka (The Boy) and Dustin O'Halloran (Marie Antoinette) is deeply moving and beautiful. The music is a serene work of art in itself. The music sweeps one up and into the storytelling with ease. It's elegant and emotionally relevant score music.
The cinematography by Greig Fraser (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Zero Dark Thirty) looks beautiful. The photography is stylized in a unique way. It's a highly artistic and mesmerizing style of photography which is well suited to the directing.
The film has exceptional editing by Alexandre de Franceschi (Bright Star, The Painted Veil). The film had to be able to strike a balance between the two main arcs of the story. Both the beginning of the film and its focus on young Saroo and the later half and its focus on a adult Saroo are perfectly executed and edited.
The screenplay was written by Luke Davies (Candy, Life). In adapting the book written by Saroo Brierley, Davies does a great job of telling this heartfelt story. It's so well told and it was clearly done with passion. The storytelling finds a balance between telling the story of the loss felt by the young Saroo when he loses his family and that of Saroo's profound search for his family as an adult. The storytelling weaves the threads of Saroo's life and his relationships together with great skill.
Director Garth Davis (Love My Way) makes a strong transition from television and documentary work for his feature-film directorial debut. This is one of the best first narrative feature films I have ever seen. Davis demonstrates a strong understanding of filmmaking as he helps guide the cast, crew, and story into the right direction. The film hits the right notes and feels profound by its conclusion. Lion is one of the best films of the year: a true must-see event. It demonstrates the tremendous power of the human spirit as it shows the determination of an individual seeking his family again. Lion is a deeply felt film which will resonate for years to come.
Lion arrives on Blu-ray from Lionsgate with a pleasing 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded high definition presentation. The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. The colors are pleasant if also intentionally muted at times due to the unique approach of cinematographer Greig Fraser. If there is some minor weakness to the video presentation, it's that black levels are somewhat disappointing even if they maintain an acceptable level of detail.
The audio is presented in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. While the film doesn't have much in the way of bass or rambunctious surround effects, this audio mix is a surprisingly enveloping one with great emphasis on the music score and on naturalistic sounds. The dialogue is also clear and easy to understand. This is an effective sound design which sounds lovely with the lossless audio presentation.
Subtitles are provided in English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing), Spanish, and French.
Please Note: This is a Blu-ray + Digital HD UV Combo Pack release.
Behind the Scenes Featurettes: A Conversation with Saroo Brierley (HD, 8 min.), Dev Patel (HD, 3 min.), Nicole Kidman (HD, 3 min.), Director Garth Davis (HD, 4 min.), and Making the Music (HD, 4 min.) which features interviews with composers Hauschka and Dustin O'Halloran. These are brief but enlightening interviews with the cast and crew about the film and why it was such an important story for them to tell.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 5 min.): Dance Party, Panic Attack, Saroo in the Lake
Sia Music Video: Never Give Up (HD, 4 min.)
Lion is without a doubt one of the best films of the entire year. It tells a deeply human story about the importance of family. The story is an important one that needed to be told. The filmmakers have done an exceptional job of bringing Saroo's story to life for audiences.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.