Garth Davis’ debut feature film “Lion,” about the true story of Saroo Brierley (played by Dev Patel as an adult and Sunny Pawar as a child), who was separated from his birth mother for 25 years eventually finding her using Google Earth, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last night. Critics gave the film mostly positive reviews, describing it as powerful tearjerker and a possible award winner for the Weinstein Company.
Uproxx’s Mike Ryan describes it as a “crowd-pleasing story” and calls Dev Patel’s performance the best of his career. “You will cry during the greatest Google Maps commercial ever made,” he says. “Maybe bring a tissue.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney says the film is “a sober and yet profoundly stirring contemplation of family, roots, identity and home, which engrosses throughout the course of its two-hour running time.” He also describes Patel’s performance as “tremendously moving” and also sings the praises of the young Pawar.
The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee gives the film three stars and praises Davis’ direction, describing “Lion” as “visually arresting throughout” and “keeps us engaged, even [when] the script repeats the odd note, and ensures that we’re eager for an emotionally satisfying conclusion.” Lee calls Pawar’s performance “affecting” and says Patel mostly “succeeds as a man trapped between two worlds and two identities.” He also says that “Lion” will likely strike a chord with Oscar voters and that it could be a boon for the struggling Weinstein Company.
IndieWire’s own Eric Kohn says that, “‘Lion’ remains a cut above the kind of sturdy middlebrow drama its premise calls to mind by doubling down on Patel’s performance. As he grows more disheveled and introverted, he’s infuriated and guilt-ridden by the privilege surrounding him and haunted by fleeting memories of his past, Patel delivers his most intricate performance since ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ to which ‘Lion’ bears a notable comparison.”
Variety’s Peter Debruge was on the more negative side of critical reception. “‘Lion’ ends in a group hug — two, if you count the real-life embrace that follows the reenacted one just before the credits,” says Debruge, “and that’s fantastic news for the cash-strapped Weinstein Company, who need a feel-good crowd-pleaser like nobody’s business.” Though he calls the cast “terrific,” he says that Davis’ script “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.”
“Lion” will open in theaters on November 25th.