Lion is the story of a young boy, Saroo, adopted from India. As a young child he was mistakenly separated from his older brother while doing odd jobs to help keep his family afloat and ended up on a long cross-country train ride to Calcutta. He was adopted out of an orphanage to an Australian couple (played by David Wenham and Nicole Kidman) and raised to be a confident and driven young man (played by Dev Patel). In the pursuit of his new career and a new romance (his love interest is played by Mara Rooney), he begins questioning his life, remembering his past and seeking answers to his many questions. He utilizes the newly developed Google Earth tool in his quest to understand his story and viewers are treated to stunning images of the landscapes of both Australia and Saroo’s native India.
The story line explores the horror of Saroo’s transition from being cocooned in his loving family to the harsh streets of Calcutta, as well as the internal struggle of identity that Saroo experiences when remembering and questioning his adoption journey. The movie is based on Saroo Brierley’s short story, A Long Way Home, and while it is reported to be quite compelling in many ways, it’s also said to be slightly lacking when filling in the details of Saroo’s search for his birth place and family.
There are some nicely-observed scenes where we see him struggle with the privilege he now has, at odds with the poverty of his youth, and the conflict of cultures, unsure where he should be placed. But once his memories of back home are reawakened, the film flips into soul-searching mode and stays here for far too long. The drama of Saroo’s search is also mainly limited to a computer screen and we’re left with an unanswered question of whether he’s spent time looking for his family in the years inbetween. The script, based on Saroo Brierley’s book A Long Way Home, often struggles to expand what’s ultimately a rather short story into a two hour movie, which often risks diluting the power of the initial scenes.
It sounds as if this adoption-themed movie is one that will appeal to many who’ve adopted transracially, and not just from India. The movie is slated to open in theaters in the US in November. We’ll be looking forward to seeing it for ourselves!