Sometimes stories really are a tale of two halves, and with Lion I’m not just talking about the fact that it features a child actor and an adult actor playing out the past and present of this tremendous true story.
In 1986 the young boy Saroo went missing in India after following his brother to a job one night. After his brother doesn’t come back, Saroo hops onto a train and ends up far away from home, a five-year old lost in what is put across as a confusing, dangerous, suffocating place. The child actor lives and breathes this world for the first half of the film he features, letting the darkness, busy streets and droning synths take him and the viewer deep within. As far as dread, worry and density go, there is perhaps nothing better on film in 2017.
And then we have the second half with the adult Saroo, now living in Australia with his foster parents, going to parties and wondering about the family he lost. Cue a second half which consists of lying around in bed and checking Google maps in sterile white rooms. Sure, the contrast is necessary to compare the two situations, but there is nothing here that is all that engrossing, especially as the child actor runs circles around the adult Saroo. Follow your dreams, embrace the cheese, it’s the only way to tolerate this indie sleaze.
The pay-off is ultimately worthwhile, but sometimes it feels more of an advertisement for plotting destinations with Google.