MOVIE REVIEW: Lion (2017)

Lion is a reminder of what storytelling is all about: capturing a man’s soul, and letting the audience experience his journey first-hand, as narrated in Garth Davis’ film about loss, hope and survival.

In a nutshell, Lion isn’t necessarily a monumental achievement in terms of cinematic technicalities, but what this film has is a genuine and heartfelt purpose that not all celebrated artsy films have. Lion has emotional depth as deep as the ocean; moving, like its waves; it’ll sway you, but it won’t drown you. The tide of this film’s journey will take you someplace else, making it an experience rather than just another movie to watch. That is more than enough for a film to stand tall.

Director Garth Davis’ biggest achievement is perhaps giving the film a soul as the actors give it a heart. Also, an honorable mention to its sublime cinematography for a visually stunning picture — alluring yet gritty, colorful yet dark — a manifestation of a lost child’s journey towards finding his home: eventful, oftentimes dangerous, but ultimately hopeful.

Remember those days when simple, clean, thoughtful narratives like Forrest Gump (Zemeckis, 1994) are well-renowned? They fully rely on iconic characters and inspiring storylines about a journey of a person — more so a character study of a man’s heart and soul, tackling every emptiness and every joy. Lion gives such nostalgia to that era of filmmaking that contemporary cinema is often prejudiced of. It is a reminder that the most important element of cinema as art is how it affects and transcends emotions across the screen. Lion does just that without the clichés of a conventional melodrama.

This is Nicole Kidman’s best since her role as grieving Becca in Rabbit Hole (2016). Kidman’s performance is universal; she epitomizes maternal instinct and unconditional love that radiates even with such limited screentime. Dev Patel’s performance as adult Saroo is the core of this film. You will root and hope for him, until you find yourself clinging to his search for life. Again, another universal performance that isn’t difficult to sympathize with.

On a side note: Dev Patel has bagged (deservingly so) Best Supporting Actor nominations, including a BAFTA win. There’s one problem: he is not a supporting character. He is the Lion of this film.

Another note: some parts of the film, particularly its weaker second half, do come across as a very lengthy (but very good) Google Earth Ad. Despite playing a major part of the film’s premise, the whole Google concept could’ve been done a lot smoother without making it a total product placement commercial. Perhaps, it might’ve worked if Google Earth wasn’t endorsed or talked about every 5 minutes or so.

Overall, despite its flaws, Lion proves that a film’s genuine purpose and intentions could go a long way, and that sometimes, it is about the soul more than anything else.

You must see this movie.

4 out of 5 stars

Now showing in the Philippines exclusively at Robinsons Movieworld, Lion is distributed by Viva International Pictures.