Film Review: ‘Lion’

lion tiff
Courtesy of TIFF

Dev Patel stars as an Indian orphan who uses Google Earth to find his way back home in Garth Davis' directorial debut.

Everybody loves a group hug. Next to the freeze-frame of Angela Lansbury grinning after she’s solved another “Murder, She Wrote” case, it’s pretty much the most satisfying ending anyone can hope for. “Lion” ends in a group hug — two, if you count the real-life embrace that follows the reenacted one just before the credits — and that’s fantastic news for the cash-strapped Weinstein Co., which needs a feel-good crowd-pleaser like nobody’s business. After “Lion” makes its millions, someone else can make a movie about how Google Earth saved the struggling indie distributor. And it can end with a shot of Harvey Weinstein, Saroo Brierley (the “Lion” himself), and director Garth Davis giving one another a big group hug at the Oscars.

But let’s get serious: The story of how 5-year-old Saroo was tragically separated from his family, wound up adopted by an Aussie couple on a completely different continent, and managed to find his birth mother 25 years later using Google Earth might be a happy one, but it’s barely meaty enough to wrap the evening news, let alone sustain a two-hour feature. While unique, Saroo’s story is somewhere between the-guy-who-found-a-lottery-scratcher-worth-fifty-bucks and the-farmer-who-prayed-for-rain-and-got-it. Such feel-good yarns are only as interesting as the person they happened to.

Fortunately for Davis, he’s got a terrific cast, chief among them the pair of charismatic actors who split the lead role: First, newcomer Sunny Pawar wins us over as 5-year-old Saroo, who’s so adorable he could set off an Indian adoption craze (which would suit the humanitarian-minded filmmakers just fine), then “Slumdog Millionaire” star Dev Patel steps in to play the less interesting chapter, as the young man turns to the internet to research where he’s from. But the movie surrounds these two with Nicole Kidman as Saroo’s adoptive mother, Rooney Mara as his Indian food-loving girlfriend, and Priyanka Bose as the mum he left behind (her smile so lovely she could pass for Rosario Dawson’s South Asian sister). Meanwhile, Google Earth plays itself.

Davis, a commercials director whose reel includes Toyota’s “Ninja Kittens” spot, would be a natural to boil Saroo’s story down to a tear-jerking 60 seconds (even if this material sounds like an extended promo for the one company that needs it least). In 2013, Davis collaborated with Jane Campion on the miniseries “Top of the Lake,” which suggests that he could probably also stretch Saroo’s narrative across four more hours. “Lion” marks his much-anticipated feature debut, previously pegged to be an adaptation of Gregory David Roberts’ 900-page “Shantaram,” and it’s practically the opposite of that project in every way: “Shantaram” tells of an Australian criminal at large in India, whereas “Lion” describes an Indian kid who discovers his identity Down Under.

With only the leanest wisp of a plot to guide him, screenwriter Luke Davies expands Saroo’s ordeal into a full-blown hero’s journey — like “Life of Pi,” with a flesh-and-blood “lion” in place of a CG tiger. Tagging along with his brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) one night, Saroo falls asleep on a decommissioned train, which travels some 1,600 miles before letting him disembark in Calcutta. There, everyone speaks Bengali, rather than Saroo’s Hindi dialect, making it doubly intimidating for a boy so far-removed from his family. Davis ensures that we understand even less of Saroo’s surroundings than he does, which makes his first impressions of Calcutta — sleeping on cardboard, only to be awakened by a child-snatching mob, or else invited home by a sari-clad woman, who tries to pawn him off to a lecherous middleman — seem as dark and intimidating as Pinocchio’s visit to Pleasure Island. As if there was ever any doubt, Davis clearly wants his audience to appreciate how tough it is to be homeless in India, presenting us with a funeral procession and images of scavenging through garbage dumps for anything to eat.

When a benevolent stranger brings Saroo to the local police station, the boy asks for his mother, but doesn’t know enough — not her name, nor that of the village from which he came — to find his way home, and so he is delivered to an orphanage, and shortly thereafter, shipped out to Tasmania, where he’s adopted by John and Sue Brierley (played by David Wenham, who’d worked with Davis on “Top of the Lake,” and Kidman, looking just about as unglamorous as she can). Considering everything he’s been through, Saroo is an ideal child — a judgment made clear by the arrival of a second Indian boy, the deeply unhappy Mantosh, into the household.

At this point, nearly an hour into the narrative, the film skips forward 20 years, picking up with Saroo’s relocation to Melbourne, where he plans to study hotel management, but instead finds himself distracted with “dead ends” about his identity. He gets emotional support from girlfriend Lucy (Mara), who at one point looks as though she may break out into a Bollywood dance number, but when it comes to answering seemingly impossible questions, that’s what Google is for. And so, like any good stalker, Saroo pins clues to a giant bulletin board and begins crawling the web for clues to his past. Except, anyone going in to “Lion” already knows how Saroo’s predicament turns out, which makes this agonizingly suspense-free process feel as if it’s taking far longer than it should.

It would almost be more interesting to tell his story from the point of view of the Google Earth engineers — say, one who had turned suicidal after months of coding for the Silicon Valley monolith, only to discover what good he was doing in the world — or else from the perspective of Saroo’s birth mother, who didn’t have Google (or even a computer) but spent years searching for her lost son. Davies’ script is noteworthy in its sensitivity, which Davis further enhances through his elegant, deeply empathetic approach (heightened by gorgeous widescreen cinematography, much of it offering hi-res flyover shots clearly designed to evoke the heroic tool), but as a portrait of persistence, it paradoxically suggests that Saroo managed to go two decades without thinking much about his mother, only to become obsessed with finding her at just the moment the technology made that possible. And so, for the feature debut of an acclaimed commercials director, “Lion” seems awfully brazen advertising its deux ex machina right there in its logline, and though the human story is what makes it so compelling, “advertising” remains the operative word. Next up: How Siri helped you find your car keys.

Film Review: 'Lion'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentations), Sept. 10, 2016. Running time: 121 MINS.

Production

A Weinstein Company release, presented in association with Screen Australia, of a See-Saw Films production, in association with Aquarius Films, Sunstar Entertainment. Producers: Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, Angie Fielder. Executive producers: Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, David C. Glasser, Andrew Fraser, Shahen Mekertichian, Daniel Levin.

Crew

Director: Garth Davis. Screenplay: Luke Davies, based on the book “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierley. Camera (color, widescreen): Greig Fraser. Editor: Alexandre de Franceschi.

With

Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Nicole Kidman, Abhishek Bharate, Divian Ladwa, Priyanka Bose, Deepti Naval, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sunny Pawar. (English, Bengali, Hindi dialogue)

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  1. Sherri Hassan says:

    What an absolutely cold-hearted review. It so angered me and you should never be allowed to review movies!! Lion was a powerful and moving movie and obviously you are a complete cynic with a total lack of emotions and heart. Get another job!

  2. Frankie says:

    I got a free Redbox rental and wasted it on this POA. Wow, what an uninteresting and very boring movie.

  3. John Stewart Phillips says:

    This review is completely and utterly idiotic. What a moronic thing to write

  4. Kevin says:

    Another “critic” attempting to demonstrate the he is indeed critical, and a pessimist, and capable of making assumptions that supposedly bolster his self-gratifying wordplay.

  5. serge says:

    What a ridiculously overly cynical review. Quite shameful really.

  6. Jester says:

    Terrible review. On so many levels. Among the outlandish claims:

    Movie is made by a two-bit commercials director – So what?
    Story is equivalent to guy finding a lottery ticket with $50 – Really? This story is the same to you?
    Nicole Kidman – Is it really necessary to point out her “unglamorous” looks?
    Didn’t care to search for his family until the tech was conveniently available – The movie skipped two decades, we have no idea how he felt.
    It’s a commercial for Google Earth – Well, this is a true story, and that is actually what he used. Technology is such a part of the fabric of life now, hard to tell stories without it. It would have been stupid and cheesy if they tried to give it some made up name.

    So much more wrong with this review!

    • Jester says:

      Forgot my favorite one: the female love interest in the movie goes to one party (not even her party) where Indian food is being served and somehow in the review, she becomes an “Indian-food loving” girlfriend.

  7. Alan says:

    Agree about the moron critic.

    BTW, to address a lot of other comments. “The trigger” was not just google earth but also that specific Indigenous sweet (similar to Jalebi :-) which brought memories. Sweets for underprivileged kids is a big deal and definitely a piece not to be forgotten. Anyways, treat yourselves to some if you can for sticking to this nitwit and appreciating the movie.

    Cheers

  8. karen says:

    YOU SHOULD NOT BE ALOUD TO DO REVIEWS!! Did You even WATCH the Movie LION? I watch a Lot of Movies, and this was one of the BEST MOVIES I HAVE SEEN IN PROBABLY A FEW YEARS!! It had everything! Why are you assuming everyone knew the Ending going into the movie? I didn’t! My friends Didn’t! (we didn’t read the book) We didn’t know if his mom and family would still be there, or would have died before he got there! The information around his brother shocked us..and also made a few of the pieces fall into place on why he never came back for saroo. And when he started to look for his mom, he didn’t know about Google earth and what it could do to help him REMEMEBR? His FRIENDS told him What it could do only after he confided his feelings in his GF, AFTER starting to remember a few things. But all the other things that happen to Kids in India is also SHOCKING! I had just finished another book about a girl whose mom was tricked into letting her go to work “housecleaning” to make money for the family..but was sold over and over again as a sex slave and she was only a kid. the lives of Homeless children in India are HORRIFIC and as many People as Possible should see this movie and try to make a difference in their lives as possible! Judging By the comments .. NO One agrees with your Review, Thank god! I’d have to worry more about the compassion in this world if they did! Please find your heart! I asume you never watched “A Dogs Purpose” either..IT also was such a great Emotional Movie! One that was aimed to make a difference for abandoned dogs or any dogs lives really. SO worth watching as well!

  9. Terri Joyce says:

    From the perspective of an adoptee myself, I take issue with your objection that it does not seem realistic that he went 20 yrs without thinking much about his birth family. When you are in a loving adoptive family, a child naturally takes that as his family, even though knowing they are adopted. It is very real for the curiosity and obsession to search to not surface until adulthood.

  10. k says:

    Ummm…did you read the book? It was amazing and to speak to a commenter below; India was accurately portrayed. Saroo lived in a very poor village and survived by his wits and begging food off of his neighbors. Read the book!

  11. Pooja says:

    Its an incredible movie to watch. Loved the way the actors have acted in the movie.

  12. Indian says:

    Every time Hollywood tries to make a film with India as backdrop, the internal and external settings of India are shown in bad light with an intent to demean India. Life is India is portrayed as pathetic on account of poverty and sinful administration that is not true to the extent it is demonstrated. The attempts by the makers of the film to present crafty facts about India have fallen flat. Hollywood needs to reboot itself!

  13. toddymike says:

    I thought the point of the technology timing was quite clear. Many adopted children get to a specific point in their lives where they are curious about their birth parents. Google Earth is portrayed as that trigger and actually makes his search seem possible. It’s easy for some to forget just how new this kind of technology is, I guess. Further, to suggest that a child should be dwelling and fixated on his lost birth mother throughout his entire life certainly devalues the role of the adoptive parents trying to fill that void.

    • Jeff says:

      Yes, also how do we know how much he thought about his birth family during that time? Maybe it was agonizing for him but it was skipped because it didn’t advance the plot as much as when the technology becomes available to find them. Maybe he finished grieving and accepted he’d never be reunited. The screen writer can only show so much in the span of 2 hours. I will admit though that it felt like too much of that time was dedicated to google earth shots.

      I like what the screen writer decided not to show. Like Saroo the audience is left wondering what his birth family is experiencing while he is away. It allows for a twist at the end too. Pseudo-spoiler alert: I would not describe the ending as a “feel-good crowd-pleaser” despite that people were hugging. It made me feel ambivalent.

  14. Matt Moriarty says:

    Astonished at this review – It is such a poor piece of film criticism I don’t know how it could come from a ‘Chief Film Critic’. How anyone could say a story so fundamental is ‘the leanest wisp of a plot’ is beyond me. The first half is very strong and the second half is at the same time too short for all the issues it raises but also too long in the way it touches on them but does not explore them properly. But the end is truly uplifting. I hope Peter Debug reads all the comments below, learns from them and then manages to write much better and more accurate reviews in future.

  15. David Carttar says:

    This strikes me as an unnecessarily cynical review. As the parent of a daughter born in Chile, I was skeptical of the movie’s premise going in; but as a geographer and frequent visitor to India, I found that the movie managed to thread several needles at once. It was emotionally honest, and fair to all parties – except perhaps to poor Mantosh, who has to grow up in the shadow of his accomplished and well-behaved brother. While it accurately portrayed the shocking level of poverty, homelessness, and abuse among street children, it treated its poorest characters with respect and humanity. While it acknowledged the emotional extremes faced by adoptive parents and children alike, it validated the love and commitment that guide all families. Finally, it perfectly represented the difficult and sometimes tedious work of geographic investigation using aerial imagery, while brilliantly using it as a vehicle for Saroo to unearth his childhood memories. It wasn’t a perfect film, but it deserves the same degree of respect that it grants its real-life protagonists.

  16. He very obviously doesn’t know a thing about film – probably only has the mind’s capacity to enjoy an episode of Peppa Pig.

  17. Ada Balon says:

    You are completely dead inside. If you were not moved by this movie, then I don’t want to know you. This movie was incredibly well done, and the story was totally believable. He didn’t go two decades without thinking about his mother. That two decades is missing from the movie…. the triggers that led him to think about her simply came in his twenties. As someone who was born elsewhere, I can relate to this. The 20s are a time of trying to figure out who you are. Stop being so cynical that you can’t enjoy anything and insist on being hyper critical of things that don’t need to be criticized. Maybe write a movie about that.

  18. cyc10ps says:

    I agree it took a bit long to get to the point but never was it milking anything for anyone.
    As for the comment “Saroo managed to go two decades without thinking much about his mother”; that is just unfair.
    Ignore the fact that he wanted to forget the most painful memories of his life and forget India, or that remembering his lost family only evoked more sadness, or that he was not ready to “face the facts”.

    Your comment is only possible for a person who is not born of migrant parents or is an émigré himself. These people feel like black sheep in their environment, and this results to an even stronger need to fit in which in turn makes them ignore their culture their background until they are old enough to feel a severe loss of identity.
    I have certainly felt so and no one, specially those living a privileged life, can tell me otherwise.

  19. Jen says:

    Peter Debruge re Lion. I’ve just watched this film, and thank goodness I didn’t read your review before I watched. How do you know Saroo didn’t think of his family until technology made it possible for him to find them? If it wasn’t possible before due to lack of technology then he couldn’t have done it before could he? I didn’t like your cynical approach and your reasoning isn’t sound on this one. I loved this film; glad your review didn’t prevent me from watching it. I’m sorry to say (and it’s just my opinion) but I reckon I could do your job better than you.

  20. Big al says:

    Peter Debruge time to find an alternative line of work… as although it is an opinion piece it’s totally out of step with anybody with as conscious would find reasonable.

  21. LC says:

    Its hardly deus ex machina if it is precisely how Saroo found his family in real life. The author of this article suggests the overly superficial stereotype of a completely fictional suicidal drone worker in a multinational corporation finding purpose. Over the real story’s real humanity. Which is perhaps the reason why the author works for Variety and hasn’t penned an Oscar nominated film.

  22. kb says:

    I rarely cry. The world can be so **** I just got over it, but I cried 6 times during this movie like a baby. The person who wrote this review does not even have as much life force as a rock.

  23. Zahra says:

    This review makes one question whether it was a ‘flesh and blood’ human (to use his own words) who saw the movie. Aggravating that he (it) reduces such a poignant and immense human tale to a condescending feel- good story which ends in ‘group hug,’ In fact I thought it was a bittersweet ending considering what he found about the circumstances in which Guddu died..
    Also Mr. Peter whoever, I daresay a group hug may do you some good!

  24. will kandra says:

    This is to inform all that read the reviews of this bad reviewer it must be a good movie when it is 100 to 1 in favor of the movie! Explain the rational behind just basic survey’s this is a blow out for the movie in a positive way and put on top of that a TRUE STORY! I BET THE MIVIE IS GOOD AND WHEN I SEE IT I WILL SAY IT IS FAIRLY NOT POLITICALLY.

  25. sadie says:

    Absolutely brilliant movie true story already recommended it to others

  26. Laurie A McClain says:

    I can’t remember when I’ve disagreed with a so-called “review” more. This is one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever heard of, and the film was absolutely terrific. You must not even be human. I didn’t even get through the review but regret the few minutes I did waste on such drivel.

  27. Emily says:

    the guy who wrote this review must have been born with a silver spoon up his butt. What a clueless person!

  28. This is the worst film review I have ever seen. I came away thinking if this movie doesn’t move you to tears you must be a psychopath ….

  29. Alan Thompson says:

    Mr. Debruge, I’m guessing, has never traveled across India – as I did by bicycle at about the same time as the story of the amazing 5 year old Saroo – and has no freaking idea of the challenge that would be, and what an amazing story this is. Peter – get your head out of your critic’s rear end and travel across India so you can talk half way intelligently about this story of survival and resilience. I should add I almost didn’t survive my journey!

  30. Stephanie Domanico says:

    You jackass.

  31. Prateek Goel says:

    Hindi is not a “dialect”, Mr. Peter Debruge. It is a full fledged language, spoken by close to 300 million people, making it the fourth most spoken language in the world.

    As for your review, enough has been said already.

  32. Maxine I says:

    What is more gut wrenching than the story of a five year old child getting lost and surviving through some very dangerous conditions – then being adopted then finding his family 20 years later – is that a grown man, a movie critic who writes for such an established magazine, equated that story to “the-guy-who-found-a-lottery-scratcher-worth-fifty-bucks and the-farmer-who-prayed-for-rain-and-got-it”! I’m not one to censor and I do love varied opinions, but it’s tragic that an adult is so cynically jaded and pompous that he begins his review of such a compelling story with his insider knowledge of the Weinstein company’s financial issues and his love/hate relationship with Google earth and the very accurate depiction of its role in this true story. To make things worse – if that is at all possible – he felt compelled to reach for another story angle in the form of a contrived story of a suicidal Google Earth coder who found a new lease on life after discovering “what good he was doing in the world”. Are you serious?!

    Just like the hero’s memory of his first five years was stirred by a dessert twenty years later, this review stirred in me Roger Ebert’s lambasting of the changes in the movie, Dangerous Minds, to create that ever so popular “mighty whitey” angle, and a so much more American convenient storyline… which I suspect is what this critic wants. Indeed, the only truth to Dangerous Minds, the story of a teacher teaching errant inner city kids to read using Bob Dylan lyrics, was that said teacher was white and the children were underprivileged. In reality, and by the teacher’s own account, the children were taught using rap and when she asked them to bring in music of their choice, they produced a variety – from rap, to heavy metal, to country. The truth was that this teacher was never called a “honky bitch” by the grandparent of twin students nor did she ever need to bribe the children with sweets or take them to amusement parks to convince them to do better. As a matter of fact, she fostered great relationships with the caregivers of these students who were interested in the success of their charges. It remains an amazing thing that people ate up the lie of this story line and the movie went on the spurn a No. 1 blockbuster single, and a rap song at that (!), Gangster Paradise.

    Roger Ebert did responsible reviewing and not this over indulgent Hollywood “insider” angle, sautéed with a self-imposed superiority angle of, “I know better how which stories should be told”! Having read accounts of the story, I found that it was accurately represented in the movie and needed no editing. I also appreciate that the Writers and Directors resisted the suggestion to use an American adoptive couple, though I believe might have made this critic happier. Now the critic may not have liked the pace or the performances and yes, it can be told from many other angles such as the mother’s point of view, or a poignant focus on street children or, as the critic seems to feel, the creation of Google Earth and how it helps humanity. Instead, he seems to challenge the integrity of someone’s account of their own very compelling story that needs no edits. Perhaps some of that self-righteous indignation should have gone into questioning why that little boy was not nominated for an award or advocating that his pay equated to Western standards. So Mr. Critic, please take a responsible role like Roger Ebert did and be that true and representing force rather than try to get buy-in to your own jaded masterpiece theatre world! Or just stick to reviewing…

  33. Roslyn says:

    What an absolutely heartless and judgmental piece of ‘journalism’. A critic indeed for the criticism heaped on a truly devastating and absolutely heroic story. What an abhorrent comment to make that it would be better to be understood from a coder in Silicone Valley ….. seriously, you have missed the whole point of this film. You are the only one who has assumed that he only thought of his mother some 20 years later, if you had any real empathy you would look beyond the surface to understand that of course he would have thought about it but in order to carry on in life you have to, carry on. What an absolutely courageous young boy he was, and I dread to think how my son, or any of my friends children would have fared in the same situation. And he was indeed heroic in finding his mother. Awful piece of critique, shallow and absolute proof that to some it’s all about the shiny, happy, materialistic world.

  34. Aces says:

    If this dimwit reviewer took his job with a sliver of seriousness he would’ve tried to at least read a quarter of the memoir written by Saroo.

    Never revisiting Variety again. See ya wouldn’t wanna be yaa.

  35. I agree with the review—it is a beautifully filmed movie with beautiful actors that had the mere wisp of a plot. The beginning with the train ride and escape from danger in Calcutta was great. After that? Not much but disjointed scenes, a love story which just gets forgotten and almost no character development of the main character (he’s such a good boy, and then he isn’t and we have no idea about any aspect of his life except for Google Earth). I was not bored by this film, but I was disappointed at the end. What was going to happen in his life–what did he become–what happened with the Rooney Mara character?

    • kb says:

      He was obsessed with finding his family, it over took his daily life so his love story and himself otherwise were forgotten, note the disheveled, unkempt appearance. Mara a person claiming to be all about helping the community was not very supportive or understanding of his need. But they love one another, he asked her to wait for him and she said yes. Story line taken care of. We all have our own preferences but I hope that helps wrap up the unfinished aspect of the movie for you.
      Thank God not another love story.

  36. Al says:

    What a sad human you are, but then again you are an American critic so I guess it’s difficult to find any joy in your life at the moment. This is an incredible, beautifully scripted and a brillantly told story of family, loss and love.

  37. Matthew says:

    My new favourite film. I tend to find Saroo to be a kind, compassionate and appropriately-motivated character/person and would not criticize his motivations or the latency period before his search. He was only 5 when he got lost, take that into consideration and try and examine how faint your memories from that age are to understand Saroo.

  38. Jeff says:

    Those who have no ability to create a wonderful film like Lion tend to trash these type of films.

  39. Dario O says:

    This reviewer has a heart of stone

  40. Were you drunk writing this or drunk seeing the film? This film was incredible and deserves all of its recognition. It’s an important and universal film for everyone.

  41. Bob says:

    Wow, you’re kind of a bitch, Peter. And dead inside.

  42. John Rock says:

    I forgot…and since your review was not straight… Advertising in a movie? The moxie of dem broke down indie movie producers! The moxie. I hope there’s no advertising in “Tulip Fever”, a love story set against the backdrop of the Tulip wars (to be release Feb 24th, 2017). Oh, I can only hope.

  43. Andy Ibbs says:

    Mr DeBruge shows a remarkable lack of insight to the particular circumstances of the adopted.

    I know three different individuals who have adoptive parents – all three of them knew they were adopted but none showed any interest in their birth parents until their early 20’s, and then it became something approaching an obsession. They each had different catalysts – but they could each identify what it was. And they all had difficulty reconciling their need with their loyalty to their adoptive parents.

    Whilst I was not adopted I do have some insight: I had no interest whatsoever in my family history – yet a chance landing on a genealogy website ignited led to something approaching an obsession, with 7 or 8 hours a week over a year tracing my ancestry back to the 12th century!

    • Toya says:

      Me too! I’ve become obsessed with a certain genealogy website myself, so to me it’s easy to imagine someone who wants to know where he/she came from – especially with the differences in culture – why wouldn’t they be curious? I loved the movie – I was cheering for that little boy all the way, and was I wrong in thinking this was based on a true story? So how does this author have a problem with the movie that was based on real life events… If the man found his mom using Google Earth, then that’s how he did it – sometimes it takes another person’s prospective, ie. introducing new technologies (Google Earth), looking up train speeds, etc. for you to realize the task before you isn’t as large and daunting as you thought it was, and that the world is a lot smaller than you think. I was in tears at the reunion of Saroo and his mother and sister, and really upset with the news of his brother’s death. Overall, I thought it was well made and would recommend anyone w/a heart to watch :).

    • John Rock says:

      You are 100% correct and beyond that it is just common sense. There is no place in the brain of a growing child to focus on past trauma, humans would have all died out long ago if that were the case. We may or may not eventually process these memories depending on an infinite number of variables.

      I did not exactly agree with this review. IMHO it was not well thought out.

  44. Nancy says:

    I thought the movie was extremely well done and was very moved by it. While the writer of this review may think it’s unrealistic that an adopted child can go 20 years without thinking about his birth family, then suddenly become obsessed – that is precisely how that can happen. The trigger, the dessert that Saroo longed for as a child made complete sense. As a parent of two adopted children, I have to say this is the first movie I have ever seen that realistically portrayed adoption and what it means to be adopted. Some children cope well with their early trauma and others don’t. I like that the film portrayed Saroo’s adopted brother realistically. The sadness and unconditional love from the adoptive parents rang true for me as well. Loved the movie.

    • Beverly Lurker says:

      I agree completely about the found memories. Marcel Proust ate a Madeleine which inspired one of the greatest works in literature; this guy has an Indian sweet and the memories came flowing. Realistic and based on a true story of course. I loved the film (as you may be able to guess)

  45. Maxine says:

    What utter rubbish….it is a lovely film….no sex, no car chases, no special effects just real people dealing with life. Thoroughly enjoyed it as did all the people sitting around me in the cinema and everone I have spoken to.

  46. G Rutherford says:

    Peter Debruge’s review is one of the most frustrating I have read in a long time. Rather than a ‘leanest wisp of a plot’, think about where Saroo’s journey took him. From an impoverished, illiterate five-year old in a state with 75 million inhabitants, who just manages to miss ending-up becoming a child sex-slave or press-ganged into work or beggary, to inhabit a semi-rural state of half-a-million people at the very end of the world. Then, as he matures into an individual, deciding his own way in the world, as most people do in their late teens or early twenties, he starts a process that requires extraordinary dedication, coincidence and good luck. This story is unlikely to have had an ending yet without the Internet (ie.
    Google Earth). Saroo would be in the frustrated situation faced by many adoptees prior to the Internet, or mandatory disclosure laws, or registers of interest in contacting birth relatives. So to criticise the storyline for its timeliness in relation to the development of Google Earth is redundant. This story is only complete because of this particular application of the Internet. Other adoptees stories are only complete because of Facebook. To criticise the storyline for a young adult adoptee wanting at that time to find their birth parents is insensitive and ignorant. I would suggest this is when most adopted children begin their search. They have the emotional maturity to understand the reasons why it may have occurred, and to risk being rejected. They also need to be able to cope and mange their adopted parents potential concerns and hurt. They need the resources to undertake search and potentially manage a whole new slew of familial relationships that can result. Until Google Earth, please tell me Mr Debruge what you expected a teenager in 1980s Tasmania to do to commence a search for one woman in India’s 1.2 billion population. It is sad when the jaded critique of a storyline can’t appreciate an amazing true story, show a bit more sensitive because it is true and instead wants to manipulate the ‘story arc’. The only things I would have like to see are a bit more of the Australian father’s response, and the Indian mother’s own search. (On a final note, please cut out the patronising and folksy terminology for Australia or Australians, eg. ‘down under’ and ‘Ozzie’).

  47. mr. PETER DEBRUGE, you are so lost in your high -rise pumpous world exclusivity. That you forgot to shut your brain down at lead for 90 minutes. Minimum. You start of your article by exposing the Director and production company- shutting them down for what is already happing in Hollywood. Then you rant about all the beautiful ” THINGS” that made this movie possible the actual events. You dispose of human-nature, the great love of Mother-hood and the pride of the characters whose work was EXCELLENT, in my OPINION. Next time you critic, I recommend taking a bottle of your most expensive wine in your luxuriuos home, drink it all up and relax….

  48. Julie says:

    For those of us dismayed by this article, it’s important to remember that this writer/reviewer is only qualified to give a written opinion, there’s no substantial expertise involved in spewing out a string of insults. This helps to digest his lack of understanding or registering any emotional depth that the majority of viewers had about a really good story (let alone true) filled with interesting, beautiful visuals and great performances. If the depth of the story itself was lost on the critic, it’s just his loss, I don’t put any stock in the review.

  49. Dean says:

    And he is the Chief Film Critic? Knowing that who would subscribe to Variety? Sure, Variety moderates comments, probably moderators to are like him.

  50. Dean says:

    The critic is an absolute geniazz. Critics were put on earth cause they were worthless to be put anywhere else. Enjoy this beautiful film. It will make you appreciate what you have in life and thank your karmas that you weren’t born to suffer like the little kids who do.

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