Movie Review: Lion (2016)

Lion_(2016_film)OK, I feel like I’m critiquing a Hallmark card with pop-up sentiment, decorative flourishes and a never-ending travelogue of treacle. Equally affecting and head-scratching, Garth Davis’ Lion (C) traces the journey of an orphaned boy in India adopted by parents in Tasmania and his quest as a twentysomething to find the brother and mother so long separated from him. The film’s tonally dissonant halves (cute kids for an hour, melodramatic adults for an hour) don’t add up with much clarity. Dev Patel isn’t particularly compelling as the adult protagonist, and his obsession (aka Waiting for Guddu) doesn’t completely translate into sustained empathy. Nicole Kidman gets a few poignant moments to shine as the adoptive mother; it’s a lived-in performance amidst all the artifice. Given the themes of abandonment, it is curious how Rooney Mara’s character kinda drops out of the picture. There are several tearjerking moments that don’t feel particularly earned and others that simply feel reductive. And there are times when the whole enterprise feels like an overlong Google Earth commercial or a protracted public service announcement. Overt symbolism about the gulf between the poor and the privileged abounds. This true-life story might roar into the Oscar race, but it’s extremely labored and incredibly on the nose.

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I've reviewed films for more than 20 years. Current movie reviews of new theatrical releases and direct-to-video or streaming films are added weekly to the Silver Screen Capture movie news site. Many capsule critiques originally appeared in expanded form in my syndicated Lights Camera Reaction column.

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Posted in 2016

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