Lion (2016) in one word: raw.
A beautiful score alongside the pivotal acting of Sunny Pawar (young Saroo) weaves an intricate true-story account of a orphaned Indian boy in the late 1980’s. Saroo embarks on a painstaking journey from fear and isolation to finding refuge thousands of miles away. Refuge is not always perfect however, and the pull of home cannot be so easily pushed aside…
The movie begins with enchanting cinematography; five-year old Saroo plays in a dusty field, surrounded by a cloud of tiny dancing butterflies. His smile is contagious and as we meet his brother, Guddu, our hearts are immediately enraptured by the two boys gentle playfulness and loving companionship. Soon, we are fully immersed in the simple, yet hard life of a working-class family in Khandwa, India; the year 1986.
Guddu, Saroo’s older brother, must leave for night work in a nearby village, a necessary journey to earn wages for a struggling family. Saroo begs to accompany his brother, demonstrating his strength through lifting everyday household objects, most notably a bike laying in the dirt. Guddu can only resist his brother’s charm for so long and reluctantly agrees to let Saroo accompany him. Soon Guddu is carrying a sleeping Saroo in his arms.
The two brothers are eventually separated at a wayward train station, and young Saroo finds himself in the dangerous, bustling city of Calcutta, 1200 kilometers away from home, and unable to speak the native language.
A hungry stomach, the seeping cold of the hard ground, and narrow escapes from menacing strangers are only a few of the troubles that plague a young boy living on the streets of Calcutta.
But a fortuitous turn of events leads to twenty five years of love and nurture in the form of adoptive parents, transitioning this story into its second act; the story of a young man’s tortured soul. Although, he lives in physical comfort and is lovingly supported by his family and friends, Saroo is plagued by the memories of home: the smells, the sights, and the loved ones he left behind.
For although young Saroo was found, his soul never settled, forever bonded to his long-lost mother and brother. Images haunt Saroo’s waking as he wrestles with the pain-infused memories of his mother and brother’s love, yet he struggles to remember more than a few specific details of where he lived.
A water tower. Brown fields. Butterflies.
A taxing quest begins, as Saroo seeks to find himself amidst a world of pain and suffering. But this movie is most importantly a tale of the indelible connection between a boy and his mother. They are inexplicably connected, no matter the distance, no matter the passage of time.
Accolades & Comments
Lion was nominated for 74 different awards and won 18. It was nominated six times at the Academy Awards.
Currently, as of July 9th, 2017, Lion has an 86% Critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 92% for the Audience Score.
It is important to note that this film contains an all-star cast of Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, Dev Patel, and also introduces the very talented Sunny Pawar. It is my hope that the gifted Patel continues to secure leading roles, a task made more difficult for Indian actors in an often white-washed Hollywood scene. In this film, Patel bursts back onto the screen as older Saroo, most notably recognized for his breakout performance in Slumdog Millionaire (2008).
Lion (2016) is based on the non-fiction book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley with Larry Buttrose.
Amazing cinematography of the rugged and beautiful Indian landscape/ city-life. My only complaint was that I wanted more of young Saroo. This movie could at times feel like two movies wrapped into one.
I heard a good friend speak about this movie, using the train that sweeps Saroo from his loved ones as a metaphor for the things in our lives that take us into hard times. This could be the loss of a loved one, going off to college, changing jobs. Sometimes we feel very alone. But although we may become lost, and we will certainly feel pain, let hope never be fully extinguished. Home can arise in unexpected places and with unexpected individuals.
To learn more about the missing children epidemic in India, check out this article: