Film Review – Lion
“What can we all learn from a 5-year-old child?”
I can’t even begin to express how much this movie has moved me. Then again, I’m easily moved. The film encompases many universal themes including family, belonging, finding your identity, knowing where you come from and obsessiveness and the pain it could cause. You can see the heart and soul that was put into this film. You will walk out of the movie theatre with a deeper understanding of the world and have a first-hand look at what happens on the other side of the pond. To think that this was based on a true story, you can’t imagine that young children such as Saroo Brierley (Sunny Pawar/Dev Patel) experience these challenges on a regular basis. It will make you take a second look at your own life and take inventory of your blessings….at least that’s what happened to me.
Based on the book Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley, it’s a story of a young, ambitious and smart 5-year-old boy (Pawar) from a small village in India. His family is all he knows and loves. His older brother, Guddu (Abhishek Bharate), is his one and only role model and father figure. Guddu helps his mother by riding into town to find work and is usually gone weeks at a time. Saroo does a pretty good job at convincing his brother to take him along this time around, looking very cute doing it.
After accidentally getting on a train that takes him thousands of miles from home, young Saroo endures many challenges: trying to talk to patrons at the train station to help him get home, running away from people who want to capture him for who knows what, fending for himself as he tries to survive homelessness for months. It’s truly amazing how this 5-year-old’s instincts are so heightened that he is smart enough to trust his gut to make the choices for survival. He is soon discovered by a university student who takes him to the police station to see if they can help him find his family. Young Saroo is placed in an orphanage and is soon adopted by a young Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham).
At a gathering of friends, grown-up Saroo (Patel) gets a flash of the past and he tells his story to his friends using the memories of his traumatizing five-year-old experiences. One of his friends suggests that he uses Google Earth to help him find the train station where he last saw his brother. The producers do a real good job at keeping to the authenticity of the story. The version of Google Earth used at that time was dug up from Google’s archives to be featured in the film.
Over a few years, Saroo deals with school, keeping his family together with his difficult adopted brother Mantosh (Divian Ladwa) and holding on to his relationship with girlfriend Lisa (Rooney Mara), all the while thinking of the possibility that his family is out there still looking for him and his growing desire to find them. The idea consumes him and his life in Australia soon dissolves. At his lowest, he finds himself alone and distraught. You can’t help but think, ‘Maybe he won’t find them after all and he will destroy himself with this obsession.’
The film is so well made, simple and true. Screenwriter Luke Davies writes a captivating and endearing screenplay. In a Talks at Google event (you can watch here) Davies says, “What attracted me to it was just that it’s a magnificently pure and simple fable about reunification with a lost mother, maternal love and hope and persistence and love.” The dreaminess of the filming and the melodic score make for a special kind of movie experience. Everyone involved in making the film should be very proud of what they’ve produced. Such a touching story. You will not be disappointed, I promise.
At the end of the film, a PSA about the missing children of India flashes on the screen:
Over 80,000 children go missing in India each year. As part of the #LionHeart campaign, we are collaborating with extraordinary organizations working on the ground to protect children in India and around the world.* Your contribution will provide critical financial support to enable these organizations to do even more.
You can make a difference in the lives of children just like Saroo.
It is a cause that you can make a world of difference for those children. Organizations Railway Children of India and Magic Bus are working with the #LionHeart campaign to help protect these children. If it resonates with you, please visit their website and see what you can do to help.