“Lion” sells itself as a sort of family drama, with Dev Patel in the lead role in a very Oscar-season-styled journey to belong. Sounds nice enough. The actual film itself is a lot more strange, a lot more interesting, and a lot better.
Honestly, if it wasn’t a true story, I’d consider this a science-fiction movie of a sort, and I’m still tempted to even now. It’s about how a new, innovative technology impacted a man and his family, or families rather. The film doesn’t try to sideline the central role of “Google Earth” upon the narrative; it fully embraces it, not just in story terms, but visually as well. In the age of “Black Mirror”, “District 9”, endless post-apocalyptic movies and shows, essentially what feels like a pretty pessimistic societal outlook on the role of technology in our lives, it’s very heartening to see a movie like “Lion”, where a new technology empowers and humanises people, facilitating belonging and love, rather than stymieing them.
The first half of the film (the half without Dev Patel) is definitely leaner and more immediately compelling than the second half, but for all its messinesses, the second half is where the film really digs into the fantastical and amazing aspects of the real-life story that’s being told. The first half alone makes for a fine, captivating Dickenseian-type tale, but the second half makes for a more complex and powerful overall story. Perhaps the film could have dug deeper. But as it is, it’s still a very affecting story, and one definitely worth telling. I give it three and a half jalebis, and a surprisingly realistic Australian accent.