Based on a true story, Lion shows us the story of a young boy who got lost in Calcutta, India in the mid 1980s and the journey of the boy twenty five years later searching for his lost past.
In India, five year old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) has a mother, a little sister and a teenage brother, Guddu (Abhishek Bharate). They live together in a small room in a remote village. Saroo takes pride in helping Guddu with jobs to help the family, whether stealing coal off moving trains or carrying melons. But after being too tired to help Guddu one night, Saroo wakes up at a train station, lost. Looking for his brother, Saroo finds himself on a moving train and when it stops, he doesn’t realize that he is 1600 kilometers away from home.
The trials little Saroo faces are terrifying. Most people seeing Lion may not realize how hard life can be for the homeless, especially lost children in India. When Saroo is adopted, it is a relief and the start of bright opportunities.
Saroo adjusts well to life in Australia, the same cannot be said for his adopted brother, Mantosh. When both boys were adopted, the parents got more than just the child, but their troubled pasts. Even when away from danger, they still know the fear and pain and Mantosh particularly struggles with it all well into adulthood.
As a young adult, Saroo seems very adjusted, normal and at first not very in touch with his Indian past. At a party, a dish he loved as a child suddenly brings back his past and he realizes that his family might still be looking for him. It’s such a painful realization that Saroo becomes secretly obsessed with finding his old family, without telling his new one. His only tools on this journey of self discovery are his early childhood memories and Google Earth.
The cinematography throughout Lion is absolutely beautiful and connects both halves of the story spanning twenty-five years. In the first part of the film, the images show what a big, frightening world Saroo has gotten lost in. Later, as Saroo is trying to recall images from his past, we see how his present life is mirroring his past. An image of him walking down a narrow sidewalk cuts to an image of him as a little boy walking down a similar narrow path in India. Wading out into the ocean, he thinks of his mother in India looking for him down by the river as other boys swim. The visual parallels and connections are a stunning way to visually tell this story and make it worthy of the best cinematography Oscar nomination.
Lion is also up for five other Academy Awards including Best Picture, adapted screenplay and original score. Nicole Kidman earned her fourth acting nomination, here for supporting actress. And Dev Patel earned a nomination for supporting actor, though I feel his role leads the film, right along with his younger counterpart, Sunny Pawar.
Lion is a beautiful film about love, family and self discovery. For some, the trials little Saroo faces while lost in Calcutta may be too frightening to bear, but educational and eye opening for others. However, I do think that this is a great film to share with family and older youth. The warm, happy ending makes Saroo’s struggles worth it.
“I”m not from Calcutta. I’m lost.”