Lion | Review

 LION is not releasing until January 19th but you need to put it in your calendars now – it was my Number 6 movie from 2016 and it is superb, check our my TOP 20 MOVIES OF 2016 HERE. I included it in my TOP 20 because I saw it in 2016 and wanted to include it for the overseas awards markets. It will be released by Transmission Films, is rated PG, is a true story, runs for 118mins and needs to come with free tissues.


Lion Young Saroo (Sunny Pawar) image



In true-story LION, five-year-old Saroo gets lost on a train traveling away from his home and family. Frightened and bewildered, he ends up thousands of miles away, in chaotic Kolkata.

Somehow he survives living on the streets, escaping all sorts of terrors and close calls in the process, before ending up in an orphanage that is itself not exactly a safe haven. Eventually Saroo is adopted by an Australian couple, and finds love and security as he grows up in Hobart. Not wanting to hurt his adoptive parents’ feelings, he suppresses his past, his emotional need for reunification, and his hope of ever finding his lost family.

But a chance meeting with some fellow Indians reawakens his buried yearning. With just a small store of memories, and the help of a new technology called Google Earth, Saroo embarks on one of the greatest needle-in-a-haystack quests of modern times.


Lion (Priyanka Bose) image


LION is one of the most beautiful and heart breaking movies of recent years. In reality it was as heartbreaking and warming. It made the news internationally and was a feature story on 60 Minutes. I was so stoked to attend the Australian Premiere for this at the State Theatre. I took besty Brooke and we got to stand next to Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban briefly and I got to see one of my favourite actors of recent times, Dev Patel. We did sit so far up the back of the State Theatre we were basically in another postcode but it made little difference, this story is beautifully told and brilliantly executed.


Director Garth Davis has delivered a successful marvel of a movie in LION. It is based on Saroo’s own book, A LONG WAY HOME, and is adapted for the screen by Luke Davies (LIFE, CANDY). Davis is on a success trajectory of epic proportions. His skills have paid off in spades, makes a documentary and a short film, scores three episodes directing LOVE MY WAY, then four episodes of TOP OF THE LAKE. Now LION and next is Mary Magdelene starring Rooney Mara (who has a role in this), Joaquin Phoenix and  Chiwetel Ejiofor.

His cinematic visual skill is highly pronounced, he has come from an early career as an internationally awarded commercial director. The Toohey’s ad with the deer, the unforgettable Toohey’s tongue ad, the Smirnoff Arrive Boldly ads – all his.

It is evident in LION he has a sensitivity and visual flair and a phenomenal ability to get incredible things out of child actors.


The director nailed the movie but this isn’t possible without a successful collaboration with hundreds of others. The  Australian producers, Andrew Fraser and Shahen Mekertichian, refused to change the location to America so missed out on many backing opportunities. At the time of release it will be four years since they started getting this movie made. I am glad for the wait, it was well worth it. Davies’ screenplay is also a marvel, when your lead actor says it is the best script he has ever read you know you are onto something.

And besides congratulations to everyone else from the cast and crew, all applause worthy, special mention has to go to director Greig Fraser for his cinematography. Your film is going to look good when the ROGUE ONE D.O.P. is on board. Fraser also shot LET ME IN, KILLING ME SOFTLY and ZERO DARK THIRTY. The kid has mad skills. From stunning shots of Tasmania, to crowded shots of Calcutta and expansive locations in rural India Frasier’s lensing is remarkable.


Lion movie image



The cast for LION is a dream cast that directors wait years to work with. Nicole Kidman nails her 70s/80s character and was the first choice and only suggestion from real life Sue Brierley. I loved seeing Kidman playing it down a little and taking a backseat from carrying the movie, her presence is always marvelous. Likewise David Wenham as her husband in the film. Oddly I stopped for him at a crossing on Sunday then I saw him at the premiere – we are basically bros now.

Rooney Mara’s character, Lucy, is actually a fictional character, she is made up from a few girlfriends that Saroo had growing up. Each of them supported him in their own way and in this Lucy is the idea of the female support. Mara plays it her usual awesome self but I did find the character almost unnecessary. Priyanka Bose is brilliant as Saroo’s mother and just wow, she is so incredibly beautiful and reminds me of “The Afghan Girl” from the cover of National Geographic all those years ago.


There are two actors who play Saroo, two very different actors, but as sublime as each other. Dev Patel has been one of my favourite actors ever since SKINS, still one of my all time favourite TV shows. His success is a phenomenon and he has gone on to play some remarkable characters, most notably as Jamel Malik in SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. He is so well known he nearly didn’t get this role. He auditioned for six hours to get this part and won the producers over. The Weinsteins also loved him so much they just picked up his next movie as well. Sadly I also learned from this that he wasn’t even allowed to audition for THE LIFE OF PI because he was so familiar. He would have nailed it!


Sunny Pawar plays young Saroo and it hurts to say it but he betters Patel in his delivery. He was selected from over 4000 kids who auditioned and gives a perfect performance. Davis said he moved like Charlie Chaplin and he could make it work, a lot of his scenes in Calcutta are without dialogue so Pawar had to give a performance through his body and facial expressions.

The scene when Saroo realises he has lost himself and his brother destroyed me. It has to be a genetic coding thing but when children give that scream that reverberates pure fear and helplessness it gets an immediate human reaction, so much so you could hear the entire State Theatre sobbing in sections. Even writing about it I feel emotional all over again. Pawar couldn’t speak English at all at the start of filming and bonded with Nicole Kidman through playing cricket, they eventually filmed it in costume because it worked so well. His relationship with Kidman is perfect, a chemistry she would know all about, having two adopted children herself.




LION is one of the best films that I saw in 2016 and that you will see in 2017. It is one of those heartfelt stories that will warm and destroy your heart. If you think the movie is sad and heartwarming, wait until you see the real people over the credits, just brilliant. See this for one of the best true story movies you will see in your life and for the amazing performances. And this one is suitable for the entire family – do yourself a favour and take them all from kids to grandparents.





 owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.