Working from real-life source material, director Garth Davis masterfully lays out the story of Saroo, a five-year-old Indian child who experienced the unimaginable when he was separated from his brother and ended up on a 1000-mile train ride that carried him from rural India to Calcutta.
In the first half of the film, Saroo (beautifully played by Sunny Pawar) wanders aimlessly through the streets of Calcutta, frantically searching for his brother while struggling to make himself understood and fleeing from unscrupulous adults. Fortunately, the trajectory of his life changes when he is adopted by a childless white couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham) and moves to Tasmania.
In the second half, Saroo (Dev Patel) appears as a charming, twenty-something man who appears to have adapted well to his privileged environment. But all that changes when he attends a party in Melbourne and recognizes a favorite food from his childhood. Encouraged by his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) and other friends, Saroo uses Google Earth to search for his birthplace. What follows is a lengthy and frustrating journey as Saroo deals with fragmented childhood memories and an ever-widening radius of possibilities.
As Saroo becomes more and more obsessed with his search, he encounters increasing friction in his relationships with his mother, girlfriend, and troubled adoptive brother (Divian Ladwa). I would have liked more scenes with these characters and flashbacks to his formative years in Melbourne.
It’s not surprising that Lion has been nominated for six Oscars–Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Music Score, Best Writing Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography. Definitely a major contender and worth seeing.