How am I supposed to review a film that has ripped out my heart without so much as a hello and then stomped it coldly into the carpet?
This film made me Green Mile sob and it was not a pretty sight, let me assure you. It is also uplifting and pure – and stars one of the most attractive human beings on this planet. Like, for real, is Dev Patel made of stars and light?
I chose this because I knew Jill has had it on her list for a long time and selfishly, I also felt as though I was personally ready for it. I may have been wrong on that count but what’s done is done now.
A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia. 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.
One fateful night the lives of Saroo and his family are changed forever when he gets separated from his brother on the railways and ends up miles from home. Aged just five years old, Saroo can’t understand Bengali and somehow finds himself in Calcutta where the population speaks it. People seem very unwilling to help this tiny person or if they do lend a hand, there’s a sinister motive in mind. It’s a wild world out there and no place for a little boy alone.
Saroo finds himself just about surviving on the streets but is eventually picked up and taken to an orphanage where things are pretty dire for all the children, particularly those subject to abuse. Fate intervenes again when a few years later, Saroo is adopted by a kindly couple living in Australia. Although he has doubts about how hard the authorities actually searched for his mother on his behalf, he has little choice but to move forward into his new life.
Sue and John Brierley (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham) are the sweetest, with what appears to be a bottomless well of love and understanding. They give Saroo a great life. A year after he arrives in Australia, the Brierleys adopt another little boy called Mantosh, who has been through a lot of pain and turmoil himself.
Twenty-five years later, Saroo is all grown up and starting out on his own with a place at college and a girlfriend. He has nothing but support from his family, though things are rocky between him and Mantosh, who has never been able to put his demons to rest. Despite the many blessings in his life, Saroo is haunted by the family he left behind and longs to meet them again.
A conversation with friends about the truth of his circumstances prompts Saroo to begin the search, though he keeps it from his mum to begin with. Our boy inevitably finds himself consumed with the quest and new technology (new for the time) seems to bring him closer to the answers. Or not, as it seems impossible really, like searching for a needle in a haystack.
This obsession bleeds into everything around him and Saroo drifts from his mother and father. He pushes his girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara) away, sickened by the material privilege they have both enjoyed in life. He is haunted by memories and visions of his mum and brother Guddhu as they were all those years ago – and consumed with guilt at what their loss must have done to them.
Eventually, Saroo has to tell his mother what he’s been doing, as she’s scared she’s losing him. Mantosh has a long history of drug abuse and she’s not coping terribly well with it. As expected, Sue shows no sign of negativity about Saroo’s project and encourages him to go for it – because she is a goddamn hero and saint.
Will Saroo finally track down his mother and siblings (he also has a sister)? Find out for yourselves by watching this film, please. It’s fucking great.
My heart, man. This was way, way too much. All the performances are unreal but the true standout star here has to be Sunny Pawar who plays the five-year-old Saroo. He just makes you feel so protective of him as he wanders the streets, lost and alone. Dev Patel too is a dream, while Kidman will break your heart as kind-hearted Sue Brierly, who genuinely wanted to give love and care to two children who needed it.
We both felt as if… the world has enough people in it. Have a child, couldn’t guarantee it will make anything better. But to take a child that’s suffering like you boys were. Give you a chance in the world. That’s something. ~ Sue Brierley
Saroo’s adoptive brother Mantosh (Divian Ladwa of Detectorists) is also great. I can’t imagine the life these boys lived, particularly Mantosh who was so troubled. I’m just happy he found some love in the form of him new family, even through all his pain.
I guess you could look at this film as a very obvious Oscar contender with the sole objective of making you cry. It manipulates you effortlessly as movies like this are wont to do but I’m sorry, I was in from the get go. It’s a lovely story. It’s just very sad that so many thousands of young children go missing in India every year and not all of them have the fortune of being adopted by a comfortable white couple.
5/5. So good and such an unbelievable, believable story. It will make your heart sour, plummet and then sour once more.