AFI FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW: LION

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I don’t know about you, but one of my greatest fears growing up is that I would somehow become separated from my parents and never see them again.

As a little girl in Hawaiit, on a typical grocery day, my Mom let go of my hand to grab something off a shelf.  By the time she turned around to put it in the cart I was gone.  As my parents frantically searched throughout the store, my Dad saw a woman in the parking lot with me in tow heading toward her car.

I don’t have to tell you,  My Daddy lost his mind.  He proceeded to verbally go off on this woman, snatched me away from her and headed back inside the store.  Needless to say, my parents were mortified that at the blink  of an eye I was almost never to be seen or heard from again.

Little did I know on the other side of the world, Saroo (Dev Patel), out on a night excursion with his brother Guduu (Abhishek Bharate), becomes separated and spends more than 22 years away from his family before reconnecting.

In Lion, five-year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) gets lost on a train traveling away from his home and family ending up thousands of miles away, in chaotic Kolkata, India. Somehow he survives living on the streets before ending up in an orphanage that’s not exactly a safe haven. Adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham), Saroo finds love and security growing up in Hobart. As an adult,  his emotional need and hope of ever finding his lost mother and brother are becoming nearly flashback memories. But, a chance meeting with some fellow Indians reawakens his buried yearning. Armed with only a handful of memories and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, Saroo sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home in India.

As if I weren’t already a fan of Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, his performance in “Lion” has made me a “superfan”.  It’s always a thin line when one  portray’s a character based on a real person that is still living and breathing!  I can tell you that Patel is crushing his performance so hard you forget he’s sharing a screen with Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman.  We will most certainly be hearing alot from him this awards season.

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Kudos to Garth Davis for keeping the Indian culture authentic by using actors from this country to communicate this amazing story. At the Q&A following the AFI Film Festival Screening, a few little known facts were revealed by Saroo and Nicole Kidman. First, the actor that plays Young Saroo doesn’t speak English…at all, which is unbelievable.  This kid (Sunny Pawar) is adorable and absolutely astonishing.  The depths of emotion and vulnerability he displays hasn’t been seen since such child actors like Dakota Fanning and Haley Joel Osment.

Saroo was misprouncing the name of his town, which resulted in his not being found for nearly two years after being separated from his brother, Guduu.  Guduu, by the way, didn’t abadon Saroo, but got hit by a train on his way back to scoop him up.

Watiting in the lobby, I ran into Saroo.  He is such a charming, put-together young man with manners and respect for others that sorely lack in today’s digital age society.

Lion is the type of film that proves one truly has to pay attention to those “gut feelings”  we so often ignore and that as Lin Manuel Miranda says “Love is Love Is Love”.  It will make your heart swell and give you faith back in humanity.

Lion can be seen nationwide by The Weinstein Company TODAY.

Click HERE to watch the trailer for LION

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