Lion Sunny Pawar

The search begins

Based on the stranger-than-fiction true story of a young man’s quest to find his long-lost family, Lion is a film to send your mind reeling and put your heart through a wringer.

It begins in impoverished rural India in 1986. Five-year-old Saroo (an astonishingly expressive performance by Sunny Pawar) falls asleep on an out-of-service train and lands, two days and almost a thousand miles later, in Calcutta, unable to speak the local language (Bengali rather than his native Hindi) or remember the name of his home village. With no way of returning to his family, he survives some harrowing scrapes on the city’s streets and ends up in a grim orphanage.

By good fortune, he comes to be adopted by saintly Australian couple Sue and John Brierley (Nicole Kidman, David Wenham) and grows into an outwardly confident and well-rounded young man, played by Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel. However, the taste of an Indian sweet triggers memories of his early childhood and spurs him to attempt the seemingly impossible mission of tracking down his original family.

Lion Dev Patel and Rooney Mara s

Google Earth

The way he sets about this task is remarkable. He uses Google Earth and his still vivid boyhood recollections in a bid to pinpoint his home village. Even so, the adult Saroo’s needle-in-a-haystack search isn’t nearly as gripping as his earlier experiences on Calcutta’s streets, although director Garth Davis does attempt to whip up drama out of his growing estrangement from loyal girlfriend Lucy (an underused Rooney Mara).

But even if the film sags a little here, it rallies strongly for a truly heart-wrenching climax. By itself, the bald narrative of Saroo’s quest is astonishing enough to make you reel. But, as told here, it is the emotional impact of his story that will knock you off your feet.

Certificate PG. Runtime 118 mins. Director Garth Davis

Lion is now available on Digital Download and on Blu-ray & DVD from 22 May from Entertainment Film Home Entertainment.