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Lion

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Lion (or Google Earth The Movie, brought to you by drone shots) explains its title in supertext just before the end credits. This rather patronising clarification is indicative of the film as a whole, which is overdetermined, obvious and features clumsy, repetitive direction. The true story of Saroo Brierley, who at five years old was stranded in Calcutta, adopted by Australians but searched for his original home when he reached adulthood, is a moving and uplifting tale. Unfortunately, director Garth Davies hamstrings almost every potentially emotional moment with disjunctive editing and repeated shots of anguished faces and Google Earth images. The young Saroo’s (Sunny Pawar) experience aboard a train that takes him over 1500 kilometres from his home could be heartbreaking and distressing, but Davies spends too much time presenting the train and surrounding country without expressing a sense of fear or loss. Similarly, the adult Saroo (Dev Patel) is clearly pained by memories of his early life, but these difficulties are again expressed through discontinuous editing that interrupt any sense of build-up. Saroo’s relationships are awkward for no reason other than he has unresolved issues, and by focusing excessively on Saroo and his pained expressions, the other characters are underdeveloped and the talents of Rooney Mara and David Wenham, as well as Patel himself, are largely wasted. Only Nicole Kidman emerges unscathed as Saroo’s adoptive mother Sue Brierley, especially in a monologue that she delivers about her life and choices, when the camera just focuses on her. This sequence stands out as most of the film uses an intermittent visual style that never gives more than an impression of the events. The film’s presentation of India, plus the casting of Patel, invites comparisons with Slumdog Millionaire, but Danny Boyle’s award magnet used its fast and visual style to convey dynamism and vibrancy, as well as the brutality of the world depicted. The actual pace ofLion is slow and often languorous, which would be fine if the style was more measured and sedate, while the film also lacks bite and any sense of threat. As it is, the schism between style and subject results in a frustratingly anaemic experience, squandering the potential of a promising story.

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4 Comments

  1. […] Fences Hacksaw Ridge Hell or High Water Hidden Figures La La Land Lion Manchester by the Sea […]

  2. […] so technically Davis is the Lead Actress (an argument that could also be made for Nicole Kidman in Lion). Her being put forward for the Supporting category is probably a tactical move by the studio, […]

  3. […] of the Golden Globes, BAFTA and the various guilds. In this respect, Dev Patel’s victory for Lion at BAFTA, and Mahershala Ali’s win for Moonlight at the Screen Actors Guild, gives both of them […]

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