DIRECTED BY: Garth Davis
STARRING: Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman
RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes
Review by Wendy Ide (The Observer)
There’s something unbearably potent about the image of a tiny, fragile child alone in a vast empty space. The audience fills the frame with dangers of our own making, crowding in on the little lost figure at the centre of the shot. From the moment director Garth Davis places his camera high above a desolate railway station to capture five-year-old Saroo (the remarkable Sunny Pawar), vulnerable and separated from his older brother, we are emotionally snared by this story.
Davis, a first-time feature director with a background in commercials and television (Top of the Lake), delivers a confident debut. This adaptation of the true story of Saroo Brierley – lost as a child and adopted by an Australian couple, he retraced his Indian family 25 years later using Google Earth – has some pacing issues and an overbearing score, but nothing that isn’t erased by the swelling, tear-jerking crescendo of an ending.
Accompanying his older brother to work on a station one night, Saroo falls asleep on a bench. When he wakes, he’s alone. His search leads him on to an empty train, where he dozes off again. But the train is decommissioned and Saroo wakes again to find himself stuck in a carriage on a speeding train that takes him 1,600km from home, to Kolkata. Speaking Hindi rather than Bengali, he nonetheless quickly learns the rules of survival from watching other street children. One of them mutely passes him a piece of torn cardboard to sleep on. Although the kids are driven that night from their patch by police, Saroo goes back later to collect his cardboard and carries it, neatly folded under his arm, his one and only possession. It’s a poignant, eloquent detail.
A bulked-up Dev Patel deploys star-making charisma in the role of Saroo as an adult, shaped more by his loving adoptive family and an outdoorsy Tasmanian childhood than by his early trauma. And Nicole Kidman delivers some of the finest work of her career as Sue, mother to Saroo and his adoptive brother, Mantosh.
Saroo’s search, triggered by an Indian sweet and a Proustian flashback, leaves both the central character and the film in limbo at the end of the second act. It’s here, also, that the overuse of a piano motif starts to grate. But the flagging pace is temporary and the emotional swell of the climax is what we take from the film.
SUNDAY 26 NOVEMBER 2017
Doors: 2.30pm Film 3pm
All tickets £4
Rotten Tomatoes - 85%
The Guardian - ★★★★
The Telegraph - ★★★★
The Independent - ★★★★
The Times - ★★★★