Lion simply amazes. Think back to what you can remember from when you were 5 years old. I don’t imagine your memories are very detailed. But for Saroo Brierley, whose true story this is, his detailed memories of his first 5 years helped him find his way home 25 years later. This review contains spoilers.
Sunny Pawar plays young Saroo. He follows his older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) everywhere. When Guddu takes a train to find work lifting bales, Saroo follows. They get separated and Saroo climbs on an empty train looking for his brother.
Saroo falls asleep on the train. By the time he can get out of the locked doors, he’s in Calcutta. That’s hundreds of kilometers away from home and anyone who is looking for him.
Saroo is observant and his survival skills are extraordinary. He makes his way through the throngs of people around him, surviving on nothing but will power.
A woman befriends him. She acts kind but intends to sell him. He escapes from her. Later a man befriends him and takes him to the police. The police look for his family, but only in the Calcutta newspapers.
Saroo is put in a terrible orphans’ warehouse. Bad as it was, he had food and a place to sleep. Some of the children went to adoptive homes and Saroo was lucky enough to be selected.
The Australian couple John (David Wenham) and Sue (Nicole Kidman) adopted him. The story stayed with Saroo’s childhood long enough for his adoptive brother Mantosh (Keshav Jadhav as a child, Divian Ladwa as an adult) to join the family.
Mantosh came from the same orphanage as Saroo, but Mantosh was terribly troubled. When Saroo was in the orphanage, there were hints that the boys were sexually abused by the male caretakers. Saroo escaped this, but I don’t think Mantosh was so lucky. This was just reading between the lines on my part, it wasn’t explicit.
Fast forward 25 years and Saroo is played by Dev Patel. Dev Patel was fantastic in this part – it was emotionally demanding and he really came through. Young Sunny Pawar was wonderful as well.
Grown-up Saroo goes to Melbourne for hotel management school. There he meets Lucy (Rooney Mara). They become a couple.
Because of various conversations and things that trigger his memories, Saroo starts using Google earth to try to figure out where his home is. He goes inward into his memories to the point of obsession. Lucy can’t help him. He refuses to tell his adoptive parents what he’s doing. For weeks he’s close to being nonfunctional in the real world. He plasters printouts of maps and scenes all over his wall. Then suddenly he has the answer.
The heartwarming, tear-jerking ending has Saroo going home to find his birth mother. During the final credits, it showed images of the real people the story is based on during these moments of reunion. It was a lovely way to end the story.
Garth Davis directed Lion. He gave the story tension and mystery. Telling it in chronological order (except for flashbacks when Saroo searched his childhood memories) was a powerful way to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. The amazing thing about the story is that it really happened.
Lion was nominated for a number of Academy Awards, Golden Globes, BAFTA and other awards. It deserved every nomination and every win. A wonderful film.
Lion is streaming on Amazon Video, iTunes, and several other places.