My sister and I went to see the film Lion this week. It’s the true story of a five-year-old boy, Saroo, who is separated from his family at the Khandwa train station in India. He falls asleep in a train car and travels 1500km to land up in Calcutta where he survives for weeks on his own. Then by some miracle, he is adopted by an Australian couple and begins his new life in Tasmania. Twenty-five years later, the grown up Saroo starts having flashbacks about where he really comes from and embarks on a mission, with the help of Google Earth, to find his birth mother.
Emotional? Yes. Were tears shed from beginning to end? Yes. The film is based on the book Saroo Brierley wrote about his journey called A Long Way Home. The director Garth Davies produced a beautiful, outstanding portrayal of the story with the most breathtaking cinematography of India and Tasmania.
The adult Saroo played by Dev Patel (love of my life) grows up to be a good, loving son to his adoptive parents Sue and John Brierley, played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham (Faramir in Lord of the Rings). It is only when at a friends house for dinner he sees in the kitchen a certain Indian snack that he and his brother used to wish for when he was a little boy. This puts in motion flashbacks of where he comes from and he starts his search for his birth mother with nothing to go on but vague memories of his home and family.
One of the most moving parts of the film is a scene with the adult Saroo and his adoptive mother, Sue. Saroo visits her after months of absence due to his search totally consuming him. He apologises to his mother for her inability to have her own children which would’ve been ‘blank slates’ as opposed to Saroo and his brother Mantosh (also adopted) who brought with them their own complicated pasts. Sue tells Saroo that she can have her own children but there are enough abandoned children in the world, and it is her life’s goal to do what she can to help some of them, which is why the Brierleys adopted. It’s a beautiful intimate scene which highlights adoption in such a positive light.
Eventually, Saroo locates where he thinks his village might be and travels to India in the hope that his family is still there. I won’t spoil it, but I can tell you there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
The actor who plays five-year-old Saroo, Sunny Pawar, steals the show. He is perhaps the most adorable, and innocent little thing I’ve ever seen on screen. It took four months and travelling across various cities in India and going to countless schools to find the right child for the film. Eventually, Sunny who had no acting experience, had never seen a western film and didn’t speak English was cast in the role. He honestly blew me away with his performance. He portrays loneliness, grief, fear and confusion all in one scene and if you ask me he should’ve received a Golden Globe nomination.
If you need something to help you believe in love and the power of family, unification and connection then get to this film. It’s magnificent and will be rummaging around in your head for a while afterwards.