Australian commercial and TV director Garth Davis made an auspicious feature film debut last year with "Lion", a film which has now earned six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Dev Patel), Best Supporting Actress (Nicole Kidman) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Luke Davies, based on the autobiographical book "A Long Way Home" by Saroo Brierley with Larry Buttrose). It had already won for Supporting Actor and Adapted Screenplay at the BAFTAs.
Little Indian boy Saroo was looking for his brother Guddu at a busy train station. Unexpectedly, the empty train he boarded began to move and he was not able to get off until it stopped on the other side of the country in Calcutta. Unfortunately, Saroo cannot name his hometown properly; so he was taken in by an orphanage.
Eventually, Saroo was adopted by Australian couple John and Sue Bierly. Twenty years later at the university in Melbourne, Saroo was inspired to undertake a search for his roots. Using his vague memories and the almighty internet, particularly Google Earth, he embarks on a long-distance quest for the family he had left behind in India.
I would think that Dev Patel should really have been considered for Best Actor instead of Supporting. He is the title character! (You will learn why at the end of the film.) Of course, one can argue that youngster Sunny Pawar could have been the lead actor since he carried the more challenging first half of the story. I personally think that Pawar should have been cited instead of Patel when we are only going to base this on difficulty of the role.
Nicole Kidman is fortunate to have been cited for a rather small role as Saroo's adoptive mother Sue. The Bierlys adopted another Indian child after Saroo who was considerably more of a handful and a troublemaker, and this expanded her role a little more. However Sue makes a revelation of such nobility and humanity that was the highlight of that remarkable woman, as well Kidman's.
The first part of this movie was sweeping and epic, taking us on a train trip across India. The performance of the little child actor Sunny Pawar as young Saroo was so affecting. With his innocent face and imploring eyes, we all wanted to reach out across the screen to help him out. The second half of the movie with Dev Patel as adult Saroo was more confined and sedate, since most of the action happened while he was surfing the net. The conclusion, while expected, was built up very well for full emotional effect. 7/10.