MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Garth Davis. Starring Dev Patel, Rooney Mara
It seems that every year there is a popular fact-based British film that also has a moral message to share. This year’s Oscar-nominated Lion is such a film. Set in modern-day India, it tells the true story of Saroo Brierly (Patel), who was rescued from the streets of Calcutta, placed in an orphanage, and adopted by Sue and John Brierley, a loving Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). One day while Saroo sees the popular fried dough treat jalebis, the sight and smell trigger a forgotten memory and set him on an investigative journey to find his family.
That’s the plot device in the second half of the film. The first 40 minutes of the movie depict the events in which Saroo (played as a child by Sunny Pawar) and his older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) go on regular excursions to steal coal from trains; they trade the coal for bags of milk. Their impoverished mother (Pallavi Sharda) goes off to work, breaking rocks into smaller rocks. It’s a hard knock life.
This first chapter in Lion is visually beautiful and palpably suspenseful. Using very little dialogue, it tells an exciting tale of love, risk and separation. It could stand alone as a mini-movie of merit.
The second chapter manages to work as well as it does due to the investment that the audience now has in the character of Saroo and his future. But the poetry of the early childhood drama quickly morphs into a Lifetime Movie, including a loyal girlfriend (Mara), an adopted son of the Brierleys who has some deep emotional wounds, and a big crying scene for Nicole Kidman.
As Christians, we proclaim that every person is adopted into God’s family as heirs of the Kingdom of God. But until that becomes reality, all of us have a longing for connection and a need to be loved. Lion tells the story of family lost, found, and found again. It also reminds us that childhood memories are primal and that we need to be vigilant in creating a safe place for all children.
I was pleased with how the story ended, but disappointed that the script and direction couldn’t quite keep the visual energy sustained for the whole film. Lion is half a great film – and that may be more than enough – because it has a strong enough story to carry us the rest of the way.
Four halos: A moving story about family and identity.
Two pitchforks: Brief scenes of peril, mild swearing.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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