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Lion Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

Lion (2016) movie poster Lion

Theatrical Release: November 25, 2016 / Running Time: 119 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Garth Davis / Writers: Luke Davies (screenplay), Saroo Brierley (book A Long Way Home)

Cast: Dev Patel (Saroo Brierley), Rooney Mara (Lucy), David Wenham (John Brierley), Nicole Kidman (Sue Brierley), Abhishek Bharate (Guddu), Divian Ladwa (Mantosh), Priyanka Bose (Kamla), Deepti Naval (Mrs. Sood), Tannishtha Chatterjee (Noor), Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Rawa), Sunny Pawar (Young Saroo), Sachin Joab (Bharat), Pallavi Sharda (Prama), Arka Das (Sami)

Buy Lion from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD DVD Instant Video

If we were to compare 2016's award season offerings to other recent awards contenders, La La Land would be The Artist, an irresistible crowdpleasing outlier; Manchester by the Sea would be The Descendants, a genuine seaside tearjerker with a sense of humor and sympathy for rearing teens; and Lion would be Philomena.
Like that 2013 Weinstein drama, this film tells the true story of someone searching for a long-lost close relative. In Philomena, an old Irish woman went looking for the son she had to give up as a teenager. In Lion, a young Indian man raised in Australia tries to find the mother and brother from whom he was separated at a young age.

Lion opens somewhere in India in 1986, when Saroo (Sunny Pawar) is a young child who tags along with his older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) stealing rocks of coal off trains and reselling them. This is how these two siblings and their single mother (Priyanka Bose) get by as part of the populous nation's large impoverished class. Saroo convinces Gaddu he's strong enough to work the night shift. But Saroo gets tired and grabs some sleep on a train station bench. When he awakens, Gaddu is nowhere to be seen. Saroo ends up on a train that rides for days, before dropping him off in an unknown part of India where Bengali, not Saroo's native Hindi, is spoken. No one can help the boy, whose stated hometown is found on no map and who doesn't have enough information to give authorities anything to work with.

In "Lion", a young Saroo (Sunny Pawar) gets separated from his older brother and lost at a train station in India.

He winds up sleeping on a piece of cardboard with other homeless children at an underground train station. Peril follows these vulnerable young boys. Even a kindly woman's hospitality gives way to a predator prepared to exploit the kid. Eventually, Saroo winds up at orphanage and is soon adopted by Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John Brierley (David Wenham), an Australian couple who can give him a much more comfortable life in Tasmania.

Saroo grows up (becoming Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel 54 minutes in) educated, well-mannered, and very much a product of Australia. But, something eats away at him: the knowledge that he was separated from his loving mother and brother, whom he's certain have been looking for him ever since. He begins exploring Google Earth, having created a search radius using 1980s train speeds and what he remembers about his life-changing childhood experience. Saroo hides the search for his biological family from his adoptive one, but not from his girlfriend (Rooney Mara), who encourages him to pursue it despite the distance it creates between them.

And search, Saroo does, for several years. You'll have to see the movie to know what, if anything, he discovers.

With the help of Google Earth, a grown-up Saroo (Dev Patel) goes looking for his home and family in India.

Adapted from the real Saroo Brierley's book by Luke Davies (2006's Candy, 2015's Life), Lion is an absorbing drama that captivates in both of its distinct halves. The subtitled opening establishes Saroo's seemingly unthinkable (but apparently not unheard of) predicament and makes clear the stakes that motivate Saroo to keep searching for his roots in adulthood.
The latter half is even more compelling, the modern Saroo's wrestles with his identity and privilege making for salient contemporary drama akin to the bulk of Philomena.

Philomena remained on the bubble for most of awards season, before being resoundingly embraced by the Academy, who ended up nominating it for four Oscars. Lion, which also hails from The Weinstein Company, ended up with even more acknowledgement from the Academy Awards, landing six nominations for Picture, Supporting Actor (Patel) and Actress (Kidman), Cinematography, Original Score, and Adapted Screenplay. It lost all of those, just like it lost the majority of its awards bids. Its biggest wins may have been Patel taking Supporting Actor and Davies getting Adapted Screenplay at the BAFTAs. But it truly is an honor to be nominated and Lion's recognition was deserved and not merely the product of The Weinstein Company getting back into the awards game a year after being shut out of the Best Picture race for the first time in a long time.

Patel is outstanding here. It's so rewarding that this young Brit who was still a teenager when cast as the lead of Danny Boyle's excellent 2008 Best Picture winner has grown up without the industry writing him off. Many bemoan the lack of meaningful roles for people in color of Hollywood, but almost always focus on black actors when doing so. Other ethnic groups, from Latinos to Asians, are also conspicuously underrepresented, typically to a much greater degree. It might have been nice for a new actor of Indian origin to be discovered, but Patel is a perfect fit for the part and he excels it at with no evidence of having begun acting as a child. The bad movies he's made (The Last Airbender, Chappie) will fade, but Lion deserves to be remembered, just like Slumdog before it.

Kidman's role is relatively small, but she makes the most of it, conveying the array of sentiments that come from adoptive motherhood efficiently, evocatively, and effectively. She picked up only her second Oscar nomination in the past fifteen years not because she was overdue, but because she deserved it. She even has the one standout scene that seems to make the difference between a nomination and nothing in the supporting actor categories.

Lion represents a poignant dramatic achievement for Australia's Garth Davis, the film's first-time narrative director, who sees to it that the film has visual power to match its emotional power.

After a somewhat modest start in limited release, Lion slowly but surely found an audience, eventually grossing $51 million domestic and $135 M worldwide, becoming Weinstein's top earner of the year and a formidable indie performer. This week, it became one of the last major Oscar nominees to hit home video, getting DVD and Blu-ray + Digital HD editions from Weinstein and their video partner Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Lion: Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English, French)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: April 11, 2017
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $34.99
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($29.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Lion looks just like it should on Blu-ray. The 2.40:1 visuals are pretty sharp and well-defined, though a bit less than bigger-budgeted American fare. The Oscar-nominated cinematography is striking. Black levels are a bit on the gray side, but that resembles the theatrical appearance and seems to be by design. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack also warrants praise. Its strongest feature is the appealing score, though it also does a fine job of distributing effects and dialogue. The first half's somewhat extensive Hindi and Bengali dialogue is translated by a default player-generated subtitle track.

On a trip with Lucy (Rooney Mara), Saroo (Dev Patel) has his eye caught by a vision of his brother in this deleted scene. The real Saroo Brierley discusses his remarkable journey to find his family home.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING, and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's all-HD extras begin with a deleted scenes section consisting of three cut sequences (4:36), two of which could be better categorized as "extended." These find a grown Saroo and Lucy at a dance party,
Saroo dreaming about what his brother's life might be while at his restaurant job, and Saroo doing some pained soul-searching in the water while again seeing his brother.

Next, a Behind the Scenes Gallery holds not photos but five featurettes.

"A Conversation with Saroo Brierley" (7:49) lets the real man whose remarkable story is told in the film reflect on his experience.

More routine interview shorts follow with actors Dev Patel (3:22) and Nicole Kidman (3:10), and director Garth Davis (3:37). All three of them appear in all three of these shorts, which also make use of some production B-roll.

First-time director Garth Davis looks a bit like his leading man and, therefore, a bit like a lion. Two Sia-esque children reunite in the lyric video for Sia's end credits song "Never Give Up."

The section closes with "Making the Music" (4:16), which as you can guess, deals with the score by Dustin O'Halloran and Hauschka. The composers discuss their Oscar-nominated sound and we also get to see them at work in the recording studio.

Finally, there is the official lyric video for "Never Give Up" (3:45), Sia's Oscar-snubbed end credits song. It artistically places lyrics around a train station where two blank-faced,
Sia-esque children find one another and enjoy each other's company on the tracks. It's certainly memorable.

The disc opens with trailers for The Founder and La La Land (presumably something Summit/Lionsgate will reciprocate on that musical's releases). Neither of those is accessible by menu and no trailers for Lion are included at all.

The ordinary menu loops a scored montage of dramatic clips from the film. Although the disc doesn't support bookmarks, it does resume unfinished playback.

Your Digital HD insert joins the full-color disc inside the plainly-slipcovered eco-friendly keepcase.

Australian couple Sue (Oscar-nominated Nicole Kidman) and John Brierley (David Wenham) adopt Saroo in the 1980s.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The moving and life-affirming Lion stands as one of last year's finest dramas. The Blu-ray's extras are a tad underwhelming, but its feature presentation delights and the film is a must-see.

Buy Lion from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Best Picture Nominees: Fences Hidden Figures Moonlight Arrival Manchester by the Sea La La Land Hell or High Water Hacksaw Ridge
New to Disc: Patriots Day Silence Live by Night Jackie Youth in Oregon 20th Century Women
Dev Patel: The Man Who Knew Infinity Chappie The Newsroom: The Complete First Season
Nicole Kidman: Strangerland Secret in Their Eyes Margot at the Wedding Genius The Family Fang
Philomena Woman in Gold Million Dollar Arm The Darjeeling Limited The Lunchbox

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Reviewed April 11, 2017.



Text copyright 2017 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2016 The Weinstein Company, Screen Australia, See-Saw Films, Wanda Pictures, Aquarius Films, Sunstar Entertainment,
2017 The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment and Anchor Bay Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.