Rated PG-13, 129 minutes
The superb, touching drama "Lion" is the true story of a man struggling to reconnect with his long-lost family. In spite of some plodding redundancies, "Lion" is a well-acted, uplifting tale that is recommended, as long as you take some tissues for that heartfelt climax.
Saroo Brierley (Dev Patel), who was lost from his family at the age of five and was adopted by an Australian family, searches for his long-lost family using Google Earth. He's met with additional challenges as he faces love with a young woman he meets (Rooney Mara) and a loving, but strong-willed adoptive mother (Nicole Kidman).
Directed by Garth Davis in his feature film debut and written by Australian playwright Luke Davies, based on Brierley's autobiographical account "A Long Way Home," the poignant "Lion" is a powerful statement on family, love and loss. It's a smidgen too long and uneven, particularly in its middle act, but you'll be hard-pressed to leave the film without a few tears, especially when the adult Saroo (in a strong, Oscar-worthy turn from Patel) finally reconnects with his aged mother back in India.
In addition to Patel, Kidman is affecting as his adoptive mother, struggling with raising Saroo and his other adoptive Indian brother, who is met with far more struggles than Saroo. Also memorable is the remarkable, confident turn from young Indian newcomer Sunny Pawar, who single handedly carries the movie on his young shoulders throughout the tense first hour, which finds the young Saroo lost and wandering the streets far, far from home.
An unnecessary subplot involving a romance with a young American girl (Mara), which seems added to the film for texture, is given too much footage, as is some family struggles with Saroo's brother. "Lion" really clicks in the last act once it finds more focus when he finally begins the uphill journey to find his real family. You'll be breathless as Patel's Saroo turns the corner to finally see his real mother, an unforgettable, sweet moment that'll stay with you after the film is over.
Patel is a strong, rugged Saroo, though you'll see the real Saroo in photographs and clips with both of his mothers, and see that Patel doesn't resemble Saroo physically (he's a good foot taller than the real Saroo) but certainly captures his spirit. Speaking of which, the unusual name of the film comes from the meaning of Saroo's name, which he had been mispronouncing since he was a child.
This "Lion" is a satisfying, worthwhile and well-acted experience you won't soon forget. Add it to your list of films to see this holiday season.