Lion, the movie, is the incredible true story of five year old Saroo who lives in a small rural village near Khandwa, India in the 1980s. He adores his older brother, Guddu, and accompanies him one night to find work. The brothers become separated, and Saroo gets on the wrong train ending up in Kolkata hundreds of miles away.
Thus begins Saroo’s fight for survival as he dodges human traffickers and child molesters in the poverty ridden city. Trying to reunite with his family, Saroo is hindered because he doesn’t speak the local language (he speaks Hindi, not Bengali) and doesn’t know the name of his mother or the correct name of his home village. He eventually is brought to an orphanage and is adopted by a caring couple in Tasmania, Sue and John Brierley. Fast forward twenty plus years, and Saroo begins the tremendously difficult quest to find his childhood family using Google Earth.
Lion will grab you by the heart. The emotionally moving story had me breathless and in tears as I watched the five year old running through the streets of Kolkata. I wanted to hold close the lost little boy and return him to the safety of his mother and brother. Sadly, the movie underlines the thousands upon thousands of Indian children living in poverty. More than 80,000 children simply disappear each year.
Saroo’s circumstances are beautifully interpreted by Sunny Pawar who plays young Saroo. Pawar’s expressive brown eyes convey the wisdom and understanding that was essential for Saroo’s survival in the slums of Kolkata as well as the overcrowded orphanage. Dev Patel portrays Saroo as a young adult and skillfully reveals Saroo’s determination to find his first family. Delivering a powerful performance, Nicole Kidman plays Saroo’s adoptive mother, Sue, who loves her son and comes to understand his need to reconnect with his biological family.
Adding to the beauty of the movie are panoramic aerial shots that reveal the rich and too often destitute Indian backdrop and the grandeur of the sweeping Australian coastline.
Lion, the movie, is adapted from Saroo Brierley’s memoir, A Long Way Home. Based on the true story, Lion does not disappoint as it takes you through many highs and lows, laughter and tears. All facets of the film – acting, directing, music, cinematography – are beautiful. It’s a powerful movie that will capture your heart.
NOTE: I watched Lion on Netflix, and the subtitles didn’t automatically display. The first 45 minutes of the movie is spoken in Hindi and Bengali. Therefore, if you don’t see subtitles, be sure to turn them on. The process varies depending on the device you are using to watch the movie. This link has directions.
Watching the end of the movie is crucial so be sure to watch till the credits appear. However, before the credits appeared on my TV, Netflix shrank the screen and rolled to the next movie before Lion had finished. I went into my Netflix account under My Profile > Playback Settings > Auto-Play and unchecked Play next episode automatically. I continued to have problems watching the end of the movie. The screen still shrank though it no longer rolled to the next movie. The directions said to click on the small screen to re-enlarge it. I was watching on my TV and couldn’t click on the small screen (tell me if you know how). I ended up watching the very end of the movie on my computer so I could click on the small screen and enlarge it.
Photo: Sunny Pawar as the young Saroo Brierley in Lion. Photograph: Allstar/Screen Australia