At First Glance: “Lion”

The thing about biographical films is, some you’ve always wanted to see, others you didn’t know you needed to see. Some people are just utterly fascinating and well known, that a film of this sort is inevitable. Other’s, less so, yet, we seem to find ourselves just as fascinated. Why is that? What about their life says watch me? Why should you care, even a tiny bit? In this case, you’ll probably have to watch and find out why.

The upcoming The Weinstein Company film “Lion”, is going to be one powerful and emotional film about hope and finding ones roots in memories from long ago.

This drama stars Dev Patel (“The Man Who Knew Infinity”, “Chappie”), Rooney Mara (“Kubo and the Two Strings”, “Carol”), David Wenham (“The Legend of Gavin Tanner”, “Goldstone”), and Nicole Kidman (“Genius”, “The Family Fang”).

The film is directed by Garth Davis (“Top of the Lake”, “Love My Way”) and written by Luke Davies (“Life”, “Reclaim”). It is based on the memoir “ A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierley.

The film is expected to open on Nov. 25, 2016.
Okay, in all honesty I don’t think I’ll ever be able to answer any of those questions I posed. Having asked them, and thought about them in some way before I typed them, I still can’t figure out why I even care. I missed this particular story the first time, so why now am I seemingly interested? One other question I keep asking, more like it’s nagging me, is why did anyone think this was a story worth putting on film? It then led me to wondering about other film’s and stories like this. Take, “Wild” for instance. Why would anyone care? Why should I? Other than a well made film, what do I get out of it? Possibly I’m asking the wrong questions. Maybe I’m just fixated on this and it’s really a nonissue that couldn’t stay that way. Whatever it is, it’s going to have to wait. There’s a consistently powerful trailer to talk about.

I’m not sure how many times I’ve watched this trailer, but each time I’ve found myself unable to not be in tears. As hard as I try to fight it, it never works. Perhaps it just speaks to how well this trailer was cut, but I don’t think this film would’ve needed to work hard, and thus any cut would’ve done. Regardless, seeing as we’re not here to talk about hypothetical trailers, this one tells me this film will be a tough one to get through. There’s going to be so much to process emotionally and witness as well, that there should hardly be a dry eye in any given theater.

Driving this, will be the way that this film unfolds. It can unfold one of two ways. Beginning to end of Patel’s character’s story, or start in the present and have Patel dwelling on his tragic ordeal when he was five years old. I have a strong feeling this will be the way the film unfolds, but that doesn’t mean it’ll work. It sounds good now, but one wrong flashback, or emotional response in the present, and it won’t matter. It may come off as forced.

I think for most audiences, myself included, just wanting to know what happened to the real Brierley, without having to do too much work, is going to be the driving force here. How else can you explain the want to torture oneself emotionally? Again, I missed this originally, so now I’m intrigued. Although, mind you, as of this writing, I know a bit more than I did before, and I kind of wish I’d never taken the few minutes to read Brierley’s Wikipedia page. What I discovered will still be impactful in the film, but I’ll already know about it, so maybe less impactful. I guess that’ll ultimately depend on how into the film I can get. I don’t think it’ll be too hard to get into the film and find something relatable about this family.

One of the big draws are the actors. Not simply because Kidman’s Kidman, and you should watch all her work, or something along those lines, but because it’s going to really give her a chance to showcase her talent. Think Laura Dern in “Wild”. This trailer works because of the emotional and familial bonds these characters have, and I’m confident this will be the case in the full film. It’s why you’ll care.

Patel may be the lead, and he’s clearly going to be put through a lot as he searches for a previous, little known identity, but there’s an automatic ripple effect we’ll have to witness, which will affect us emotionally even more. Patel is also getting a big chance to show he’s really talented, and hopefully grow his name recognition, which really isn’t that big.

Based on this trailer, sadly I can’t judge the contributions of Mara or Wenham. At least with Wenham, I know he’s Patel’s father, but that’s it. Surface information you could’ve gotten from the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) page for the film. Mara, well, I guess I’ll have to wait and see. Even though I don’t think she’ll have even as much of a role as Kidman, I’m still excited for her being in it. This film is the type of film she can really do her best work. It definitely looks like it, and regardless of how long we see her, it’ll be worth it. She’ll help enhance this film in all the ways needed.

This film may be based on an obscure book, retelling an obscure story of one man’s quest to find his family, but it could prove to be more than just a well made film. There’s a lot to learn from this film, and seeing it on screen may be the perfect way to discover something new. It’ll certainly be the best way to discover how much you can handle emotionally. It’s also one of the great things about dramatic films with a strong focus on human drama, brought about by a character driven story. Did you see Sunny Pawar as young Saroo Brierley? Those scenes alone should already be affecting many people, including those with children.

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