Lion (2016)

Lion a 2016 drama film directed by Garth Davis (in his feature debut) and written by Luke Davies, based on the non-fiction book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley with Larry Buttrose. The film stars Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham and Nicole Kidman. It received six Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Patel), Best Supporting Actress (Kidman) and Best Adapted Screenplay. It also received five nominations at the 70th British Academy Film Awards, winning two for Best Supporting Actor (Patel) and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Saroo is a 5 years old boy living in a poor village called Khandwa in India along with his elder brother Guddu, his mother and younger sister. His mother is a labourer who collects rocks for construction. Guddu and Saroo steal coal from freight trains to afford milk and food. One day Saroo follows his brother to a job and they arrive at a nearby train station, where Saroo decides to stay back and take a nap. Guddu tries to wake him up, but Saroo is too tired. When Guddu does not return, Saroo searches for him and boards a train presuming Guddu is aboard. The train, an empty passenger, takes off in the night as Saroo sleeps and he is unable to leave the train for 2 days. At Calcutta he tries to take a ticket home but no one recognizes his village of “Ganestalay” and he is forced to sleep on cardboard provided by a group of homeless kids. At night the kids are forcefully taken away by some adults but Saroo manages to escape.

He is taken in by Noor, a lady who who brings him back to her apartment and feeds and bathes him. She tells Saroo that a man, Rama, will help him find his way home but the attentions of the man, who works in the sex slave market, scared the boy and he runs away. A young man who sees Saroo from a cafe takes him to the police station but as no one can find his village on the map they take him to an orphanage. The orphanage is run more like a jail for kids but three months later, Saroo is introduced to Mrs. Sood, who tells him she has placed an advertisement about him, in a widely read local newspaper, but no one has responded. She then tells him that an Australian couple is interested to adopt him. She begins to teach Saroo English and he moves to Hobart, Tasmania, in the year 1987, under the care of Sue and John Brierley, where he slowly starts to settle in. A year later, they adopt another boy, Mantosh, from the same orphanage who has trouble adjusting to his new home and suffers from rage and self-harm.

20 years later Mantosh is living estranged from the family and Saroo is leaving for Melbourne to study hotel management. He meets and starts a relationship with an American student named Lucy. At an Indian friend’s home for lunch, Saroo is drawn towards a plate of jalabi which reminds him of Guddu and how they talked about eating the sweet which was a rare thing for them. He confides that he is adopted, and his friends suggest he use Google Earth to search for his hometown in India. Saroo begins his search but over time, disconnects from Lucy, overwhelmed by the thought of emotions his family must have gone through when he was missing. He eventually goes to see Sue after learning from John that she isn’t doing too well with both her sons being distant from her. He apologizes to her and  learns that she is not infertile, but chose to help others in need through adoption, believing that there were already too many people on Earth. Saroo also makes up with Lucy but still spends a long time searching fruitlessly for his hometown.

One evening, while scanning Google Earth, he notices the rock formations where his mother worked, and then finds the area where he lived: the district called Khandwa, and the locality, Ganesh Talai. He finally tells his adoptive mother about his search, and she fully supports his efforts. He travels to India and finds the village and has a tearful reunion with his mother and younger sister but is devastated to learn that Guddu was killed when he was hit by a train the same night that they went to the station as children. Their mother never gave up hope and believed that one day her missing son would return, and never moved away from the village. As the movie ends we see footage of the real Saroo bring Sue to meet his mother. Saroo, later learned that he had been mispronouncing his own name, which was actually Sheru, a diminutive for sher, the Hindi word for “lion”.

A touching film, spurred on by the awesome performance of the child actor Sunny Pawar who will win a lot of hearts. It’s a good story in a slow paced film that picks up only at the beginning and towards the end. I give it a 8.5 outta 10!

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