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Lion is the tale of two movies contained within one.  One half that I really liked, and one that I could have done without.

This is the true story about a five-year old boy named Saroo (Sunny Pawar) who is separated from his brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) and accidentally finds himself on a train traveling across the country of India.  He finally escapes from the train in Calcutta with no idea how to find his way back home.  Saroo has to struggle with language barriers, dangerous individuals, and deadly circumstances.

However, he winds up being adopted by a family in Australia, John (David Wenham) and Sue (Nicole Kidman) Brierley.  Twenty five years later, Saroo (now played by Dev Patel) is in a relationship with Lucy (Rooney Mara) and he remembered important details about his past and began a search for his mum and brother.

I really enjoyed the first half of this story, with young Saroo trying to survive and avoid the dangers that are clearly everywhere in India for a young child.  Sunny Pawar was outstanding in this film.  You never knew what was going to happen next.  You knew he was going to make it to Australia, but I have to admit that I just had no idea how he was going to get there.  Plus, Pawar spent most of his screen time running like the wind.

However, the second half of the movie really came down to earth (Google earth, maybe?).  At this point, Saroo became whiny and downright deuschy.  He mistreated his girlfriend, froze out his mother and mouthed-off to his emotionally damaged adopted brother (Divian Ladwa).  All of this because of the guilt he felt over leaving behind his brother Guddu and his mum.

The film also became too emotionally manipulative with several flashbacks and visions of Guddu, most of which were taking place in the head of Saroo.  This all felt like Oscar baiting, taking a story of determination and a person overcoming the odds and started tugging on the heart strings in a false-hearted way.

Sure the true story is cool.  That’s why I do not think they needed all the bells and whistles that they threw into the third act of this movie, just to try and get attention of the Oscar voters.

The first half of this film was really compelling.  The second half was not so much.  It is an interesting true story.  I just did not appreciate the “very, special episode” feel of this.

3 stars

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