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Saroo Seeks His Birth Family In Lion

Updated on January 7, 2017

Theatrical Poster

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Synopsis

The story presented in the movie Lion gets divided into two parts. The first part begins in a community in India in 1986, where a young man named Saroo (Sunny Pawar) spends time scavenging for sellable items with his older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate). Their mother, Kamla (Priyanka Bose), labors for accommodations for the boys and their little sister. One day, the boys get separated , and Saroo goes to sleep inside a train car that has been decommissioned. As a result, he is locked inside a car that doesn't stop until it arrives in Calcutta, 160 kilometers from his home. Few speak Hindi in a city that primarily speaks Bengali, further hindering his hopes of going home. He lives on the streets for awhile, but eventually finds himself in an orphange. There, Sue Brierley (Nicole Kidman) and her huband John (David Wenham) adopt Saroo and give him a home in Brisbane. A year later, they adopt another boy, Mantosh (Keshav Gadhav), a troubled and private young man. This family, though, makes the best of the situation.

Over twenty years later, an adult Saroo (Dev Patel) moves to Melbourne to study hotel management, while Mantosh (Divian Kadwa) remains a loner who works with his fisherman father. Saroo even starts a relationship with the American-born Lucy (Rooney Mara), whom he meets in class. When fellow students meet to discuss their backgrounds at an Indian restaurant, Saroo shares his story and starts to remember details of his Asian boyhood. One of them suggests that he use Google Earth to try and find his mother and siblings. This quest becomes an obsession, as Saroo drops his studies and endangers all of his closest relationships. The quest especially takes a toll on Sue, which leads Saroo to explain himself more thoroughly.

Evaluation

Lion, based on the autobiographical account written by Saroo Brierley, is a good look at a man who has two families - the one who raised him to adulthood and the one he never meant to lose. Misunderstandings beyond the words lost in translation play a key role in Saroo's life. Even the title of this movie is a clarification of one of Saroo's misunderstandings. However, director Garth Davis (making his feature debut here) and scenarist Luke Davies don't really delve into the uniqueness of Saroo's life. Lion is tame, and plays like an ordinary true story. Characterization is basic, and the ending is predictable. The musical score from Hauschka and Dustin O'Halloran is another weak point, as it is overly dramatic. Also, this movie needs an epilogue, since the onscreen events end with the year 2013. As ordinary as I found the movie, I still would have liked a quick update on Saroo and his families today.

Patel, Kidman, and Mara carry the film with their performances. Patel, as Saroo, knows he wasn't a throwaway kid, like so many he knew in Calcutta. While he knows he owes a great deal of his life to the Brierleys, he has to scour his memory banks and calculate the location of every place he might have lived to determine the place of his origin. Like Patel's character Jamal Malik in Slumdog Millionaire, Saroo is an underdog in a pursuit that could easily not go his way without crucial details. Kidman is the patient, but quietly suffering, Sue. She has had a different path to motherhood, but has sons who sometimes make her feel motherless. She has one of the best scenes in the movie when she explains to Saroo her reasons for taking the path in life that she did, and John supported. Mara, as Lucy, is a soulmate of sorts for Saroo, for neither are natives to the land Down Under. While Saroo seeks answers to his past in another land, Lucy ponders a job offer in New York. The bonds she makes with the Brierleys will prove to be important to Saroo, Sue, and herself.

Conclusion

Many people have an interest in their heritage, but Saroo Brierley can't trace his biological origins in the usual ways. In Lion, he comes to a hard decision to focus on his origins full time instead of as a sideline. Those who know him as he is cannot completely understand his decision, but he wants those he left behind that he still loves them and thinks of them. Saroo rightfully knows he belongs to two different worlds. Before he dedicates himself to his future, he needs answers regarding those from his past. He realizes this dual identity can be both a blessing and a curse, if he doesn't understand the importance of both correctly.


On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Lion three stars. A film with a quiet roar.

Lion Trailer

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