Google Earth


24 November 2016| No Comments on Lion     by Sean Chavel


Misguided, to the point I’m bummed out that this couldn’t have been told better. It’s hard to deny though that Lion has a story I like and has a visually remarkable first half that plunges us into the social entropy and chaos of India. Based on true events, five-year old Saroo became separated by his brother, was stuck on a train for two days, and by the time he got off was in part of the country that didn’t speak his language. Sunny Pawar plays the puckish little boy who survives on precocious instinct, but after being “saved” by an orphanage, he is sent off to live with adoptive parents – obviously wealthy – in Australia that easily can offer him an education and a safe upbringing. We see one of those twenty year later title cards, and learn that Saroo is a proud and adept young man. In time, Saroo will become obsessed with finding his birth mother and siblings he left behind. So far, so good.

It’s been nine years since Dev Patel made a splash with “Slumdog Millionaire,” and when we see him as the adult Saroo, it’s striking that Patel is no longer the scrawny movie actor he once was but is now a strapping and robust young man. We can see the gaiety and gregariousness in Patel right away and even wonder if “Lion” is going to be a new second stage breakthrough for the maturing actor.

Then, after a few subtle scenes when Saroo starts to develop longing for the family he left behind as a small child, the film and Patel goes interminably wrong. When Patel plays moody, he gets annoying real fast. The film takes place during the late 2000’s when Google technology was really developing its’ precision, so friends tell him that the new feature Google Earth is now so good that, with some time, he can track down his birthplace. The film suggests though that Saroo went into self-hibernating withdrawal following this information, shutting out his girlfriend, his adopted brother, and Australian parents in the process. Instead of just spending more time online to delineate his past, Patel has to get moody and surly first.

I wish we could get a film that was more complex, more honest in its emotions. It’s hard not to say that “Lion” isn’t trite, because I doubt the real people this story is based on became despondent as portrayed here. It should be said, all the actors started off good. But here in the last third, Rooney Mara, as the forsaken girlfriend, is the first actor to start mumbling her lines. Then everybody else joins her, including Nicole Kidman and David Wenham as now mumbling, depressed parents. And, of course, Patel who in these later scenes comes on the screen all too shaggy, as a way to suggest that he’s so heart torn he can no longer care about his looks as he mumbles too.

I cared how the movie was going to turn out, and glad I stuck with it because it hits an inspirational chord with its title card epilogue. I just hope next time somebody makes a movie like this they understand we don’t need thirty-five minutes of a character moping around into a descent of such self-seclusion that it looks nothing but real life, but overdone movie melodrama fakery.

120 Minutes. Rated PG-13.


Film Cousins: “Salaam Bombay!” (1988, India); “The Namesake” (2006); “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008); “Oranges and Sunshine” (2011, Great Britain).

Lion_Poster-2016 _Flick Review

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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