The latest film based on a remarkable true story is a more recent affair with an inherently modern twist. It is at once a classic yet contemporary tale, extraordinary and emotional.
The film follows the story of Saroo, a young Indian boy who becomes separated from his family. It depicts his struggles as he searches for his home, encountering numerous dangers along the way, before coming to be adopted by a couple in Australia. 20 years later, as an adult, sudden flashbacks to his perilous journey compels him to try and find his home and biological family. He goes about doing so, extraordinarily, by using Google Maps.
It is a story of two halves, but they are woven together so well, they do not feel separate. The first half follows young Saroo, detailing his home life, before he becomes lost and wanders around India trying, but to no avail, to return home. Throughout this time the audience only knows as much as Saroo does; we too are disorientated, although our more adult perspectives allow us to perceive the danger before he can, creating a sense of dramatic irony that only amplifies the emotions the film creates. Later, as we follow adult Saroo through his university life, budding romance and then his quest to find his roots, there are constant flashbacks to moments of the film’s first half, as well as imaginings of Saroo’s Indian family in Australian life. These help to balance and connect the two sections of the film expertly.
The strong direction, combined with brilliant acting is what creates authenticity around the film’s emotions, and ensures it never falls into melodrama. Sunny Pawar, as young Saroo, is phenomenal. He embodies every emotion and gives an incredibly genuine performance. As older Saroo, Dev Patel takes on all of the trauma of the film’s first half and instills it at the root of his character, brilliantly portraying a broken, yet driven, man. The rest of the supporting players are all terrific too, with Nicole Kidman standing out as a quiet emotional storm that provides some of the film’s most touching moments.
It is a phenomenal story, and a human one, its universal themes will ensure a connection with all audience members. Despite (most audience members) knowing how it ends, the film remains compelling, and provides a battering assault on the emotions in its final scenes (complete with beautiful real-life footage). It is an extraordinary, heartwarming and powerful true tale, and marks Garth Davis as a director to watch.