A great first third tells the story of adorable Indian child Saroo who falls asleep on a train and ends up on the streets of Calcutta, fleeing child abductors, orphanages and teeming crowds as he tries to find out where he’s come from.
So far, so Slumdog meets Salaam Bombay, done well enough, and looking lovely and atmospheric.
Then Saroo is adopted by a Tasmanian family and has a new Mum who’s Nicole Kidman, her eyes suffused with tears. I sobbed with her, so open and loving is the gesture and the so beating is this film’s huge, true heart.
Then, 20 years later, and Saroo is now Dev Patel, the Slumdog himself. My he’s grown and he’s trying to find himself, literally. A mate suggests he use Google Earth (an entire movie of product placement) to find the village he came from.
Dev emotes and his adopted Mum Sue gets tearful about stuff and just as the movie should all be coming together it wanders and it wallows, it introduces Rooney Mara as a girlfriend and then summarily ditches her, and it even become unclear how the whole Google Earth thing works.
Lion requires a hugely open heart – which I have, I mean I cried at the early adoption scene, at Kidman’s shining eyes and face – but it also needs an uncritical leap of disbelief, which I don’t have. Considering it’s a true story – and a really good one, at that – I don’t know how they managed to make me sit stonily through what should have been an extraordinary climax. It didn’t work for me, and I even hated the music.