LION — Review by Susan Granger

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When five year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) is accidentally abandoned in a railroad station, he gets on a train and falls asleep, travelling thousands of miles across India, far away from his family, left to fend for himself as an orphan on the streets of Kolkata (Calcutta). That’s how he embarks on the adventure of a lifetime – one that takes him all the way to Australia, where he’s adopted by a loving couple (Nicole Kidman, David Wenham), growing up, safe and secure, in Hobart. Read on…

25 years later, guided only by fractured, fragmented memories and steadfast determination, adult Saroo (Dev Patel) discovers a technological phenomenon known as Google Earth, which leads him back to his long-lost village and a birth family he barely remembers.

Based on an astonishing true story, “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierley (2014), it’s scripted by Australian poet/novelist Luke Davies and sensitively directed by Garth Davis, making his feature film debut; previously, Davis was best known for TV commercials, including Toyota’s “Ninja Kittens.”

The result is spiritual without succumbing to sentimentality.

Diminutive Sunny Pawar exudes a charismatic vulnerability, and the guilt-conflicted resolve shown by Dev Patel (“Slumdog Millionaire”) is raw, strong and powerful. Their performances are enhanced by Rooney Mara, as Saroo’s supportive girlfriend, and Nicole Kidman, exuding nuanced devotion.

The film’s secondary theme revolves around the unconditional love of an adoptive parent; the two mother-figures are the pillars that support the story – and there’s not one wrong note, look or line of dialogue.

More than 80,000 children disappear each year in India. So this story’s emotional and structural elements strike a basic, universal chord.

While much of the first section is in Hindi with English subtitles, it’s neo-realistic and immersive, transcending language barriers, since its primal appeal revolves around the search for family and identity. And the poignant credits pair the actors with their real-life counterparts.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Lion” is a triumphant 10. It’s the intimate, uplifting drama you’ve been yearning for.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.