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quinta-feira, 2 de fevereiro de 2017
Lion review: Nicole Kidman's Oscar contender will rip you to pieces
Director: Garth Davis. Cast: Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, Priyanka Bose. 129 mins
True stories of the somebody-got-famous kind are a dime a dozen in cinema. But the one in Lion, involves no one you’ve ever heard of, doesn’t star a soul you’ll recognise for its first 40 minutes, and will rip you into a thousand pieces.
It’s the story of a lost boy: a five-year-old Indian called Saroo, who grew up in the 1980s in the area around Khandwa. The film begins with him pilfering lumps of coal off a train with his older brother, Guddu, and selling them to buy food. By the end of the first reel, these two are thousands of miles apart, wholly by mistake.
Left sleeping one night on a railway station bench, Saroo woke up alone and scared, and stumbled onto a decommissioned passenger train. Before he knew it, he was speeding his way to Calcutta, with no one to help, no Bengali to explain, and a place name for his home town that no one at the other end recognised.
The excellent script, by the Australian writer Luke Davies, sticks rigidly to Saroo’s own point of view as days, months, and eventually whole decades elapse with him effectively orphaned through freak circumstance. It’s derived from a 2012 memoir by the grown Saroo Brierley, called A Long Way Home. He can only imagine the agony his mum (Priyanka Bose) and brother must have gone through, endlessly searching.
With no paper trail or family name, he becomes a lost cause, shunted perilously for a while around India’s barely-existent social welfare system, and eventually shipped off to a pair of kindly foster parents in Tasmania, played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham.
Saroo’s memories of his earlier life fade, but not completely. An awakening occurs when he’s 30 or so, and now played – in far and away his strongest performance to date – by Dev Patel. Finding a plate of jalebis at a party triggers a kind of Proustian flashback to the treats his brother always promised him. There are other clues he remembers, landmarks from his childhood, and so he set about scouring Google Earth across a huge radius of his home country, with only a rough distance from Calcutta to go by.
Saroo could easily have settled for this comfortable, educated life in Australia, with a career waiting in hotel management. But the fracturing of his identity is a dagger to the heart, and he can’t think of his former family without devastating remorse. He becomes obsessed, withdrawn, mentally ill.
Patel, so often encouraged to be cutely naïve, exudes all the right kinds of pain here, but also gives Saroo a bitter, self-flagellating core which feels like an especially brave choice, in a role (and film) which infinitely improve on his breakthrough in Slumdog Millionaire.
While Rooney Mara has a fairly limited function as Saroo’s girlfriend, Kidman enriches the film enormously. It’s a sterling, supportive performance. The script never lunges for cheap drama by forcing Saroo into a binary choice between mothers, and the most complex beats are about tip-toeing around, often counter-productively, to avoid hurt or betrayal.
Kidman’s Sue has her own story to tell, and holds onto it forcefully in the domestic scenes: she can embarrass her son with pride and love, but she’s also a fascinatingly strained figure, often barely keeping her grip. Right now, the Best Supporting Actress Oscar must be hers to lose.
Inescapably moving without going overboard, it’s quite a film debut for director Garth Davis, best-known for his collaboration with Jane Campion on Top of the Lake. A story with this much built-in emotion doesn’t need milking, but a certain holding back: it’s a smart move to have the dropped pins and smudged details of online mapping do all this for us.
Finding satellite images of a village, or even a house, isn’t necessarily finding family members who’ve stayed put inside it. Some may not even have survived. The wait to find out is agonising enough even for us – just try and imagine Saroo’s ordeal.