Of all the Oscar Picks of this last season, Lion was one I was most excited to see. Given the subject matter and cast, it was hard not to see great potential in the film that would come as a result. I knew it would be heartbreaking, emotional, and compelling. What I didn’t know is that I would not really like it. Don’t get me wrong I have my reasons and I am not saying that the film isn’t good in its own way. What I am saying is that there were certain aspects that made this film hard to enjoy, personally. What is most maddening about this is that I wanted to love this film, and performances there within. Everything is going for this film on paper. With an almost all Oscar Nominated/Winning cast including Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, and Rooney Mara how could this film fall flat? Well, I have a theory that there is nothing particularly wrong with what’s in the film. It’s what is MISSING that makes this a miss for me.
Our story follows Saroo, both as a young boy and later as a man (Dev Patel). As a boy, Saroo finds himself separated from his brother and lost on the streets of Calcutta. Saroo has to find a way to survive on his own in a place where he does not even speak the language. Saroo eventually finds himself in what seems like part prison and part home for wayward kids where he has the opportunity to be adopted by an Australian couple (played by Kidman and Wenham) where he spends the rest of his young life. Fast forward twenty-five years and we see grown up Saroo (Patel) on his way to being a success (however vague it is) when he starts to have flashbacks to the life he had before. He makes it his mission to find his mother and brother, (also he has a sister but for some reason she is barely mentioned throughout the entire film), with the help of Google Earth and an unhealthy obsession we are left wondering will he be able to find where he came from before it drives him insane?
There are quite a few problems with the composition of this story. First, the film is split into two parts. The first part obviously being the story around Saroo’s childhood. The second, of course, is the grown Saroo played Patel. The problem isn’t that the film is split in two, what doesn’t seem to work is there is not a lot binding to the two parts so that they feel cohesive. The film makes the switch quickly and without notice, there isn’t a lot that happens to make us bond with either version of the character. By the time we have grown to know the version of the character we are presented with their segment is over. The second issue I have with the overall composition is the use of the secondary characters seems forced and out of place at times. Not enough time is spent with any one character to really get their buy-in to make you care. This is especially evident with Rooney Mara’s character who seems more like a plot device than an actual character to identify with. This makes it hard to really get invested in not only the characters but the story from one moment to the next.
The Film 3/5
At the helm for Lion’s cinematography is Greig Fraser, a well-seasoned cinematographer who has recently finished Rogue One. Greig manages to capture some emotionally powerful scenes with some absolutely wonderful backdrops. India is truly a beautiful country and to start the film with some of its more beautiful landscapes and to transition into some it’s darker locations does an absolutely great job of making a rather distinct look for the film overall. Once we move the story into Australia it’s more of the same. However, the second half of the film manages to have a separate feel and overall look, as the world may be brighter but life seems darker for Saroo. The various backdrops of the film, no matter how dark the subject matter is, certainly make for an absolutely beautiful film for home viewing. The transfer seems natural and the overall quality of the Blu-ray is amazing.
Picture Quality 5/5
I found the overall score to be flat and do little to add to the story. When you have a story like this based on something so incredible, not to mention true, the score can do so much to add to the emotional connection of the story overall. We never seem to get there with the score. I can appreciate the somberness of the first act and how it adds to the despair of young Saroo, however, it fails to come to fruition in its second half. That being said, I found no issues viewing the film at home, and the volume level did not stray or pose any problems.
Audio Quality 5/5
If you were like me and ran out on release day to grab this one, you may have found it hard to find a release with a slipcover. I myself had to venture to two different stores to find a release that came with it (personal tip Best Buy over Target). Once I did manage to find a release, I noticed that half of the shelf had slips that were poorly constructed and misprinted, as in the pictures not lining up on the sides properly and the cutout on the back makes the whole thing feel flimsy. Once we get past the overall feel and availability of the slipcover, I want to address the chosen image for this release. Why Anchor Bay chose to stray away from the initial image used for the theatrical release and use the chosen image is beyond me but it does not add appeal to the release and fails to make it stand out among other releases on the shelf. For the actual case itself, it’s a fairly standard eco-case with cut-a-ways on the left inside and more behind the disc itself.
The Packaging 2/5
I didn’t expect much from the special features on this one especially because what is listed makes it seem as though we don’t get any featurettes at all. However in a bizarre turn of events, the gallery section in the menu is actually several featurettes all about three minutes in length, it doesn’t amount to much but it is better than nothing. It is powerful, I must say, to hear the real life Saroo speak of the events that happened to him. Otherwise rather unimpressive as far as special features go. The Special Features included are as follows:
- Deleted Scenes
- Behind the Scenes Gallery (this is kind of strange when selected it’s not a gallery at all it is full of several featurettes)
- A Conversation with Saroo Brierley
- Saroo himself talks about his journey
- Dev Patel
- Patel talks about why he was so excited to join the film
- Nicole Kidman
- Patel talks about working with Kidman and she speaks about why she wanted to do the film
- Director Garth Davis
- Davis speaks about what the film meant to him and how incredible it was to be able to tell this story
- Making the Music
- The composers for Lion talk about why they chose the style of score they did, and how it was important to capture a feeling
- A Conversation with Saroo Brierley
- “Never Give Up” performed by SIA -Official Lyric Video
Special Features 2/5
I think overall I am just disappointed. There was a lot of potential here and for me it just failed to find a place of cohesiveness to make a truly great film. Beyond that, we have a great performance from Patel and the young boy playing Saroo (Sunny Pawar) is captivating and spectacular. It is clear why this film was received well from critics overall as its story is rather compelling and stays with you for some time. It also makes sense that it did not eventually take the Oscar for Best Picture. This film has great performances and moments but lacks that glue to bind them all together. You can purchase this edition HERE.