IF YOU WATCH shows like “Kasama Mo Jessica Soho” and “Wish Ko Lang”, you would be familiar with stories of family members who have lost touch with each other for years and years then have a tear-filled televised reunion in these shows. Such a story is featured in the film, “Lion”, about a little 5-year old boy in India named Saroo, who lives in a remote and impoverished village with his mother and older brother Guddu.
Saroo is so attached to Guddu and helps him steal coal from trains that they then exchange for food. One night, Saroo asks Guddu to take him to the train station. Saroo sleeps on a bench on the train station while Guddu works. When he wakes up, he boards a train and falls asleep there. When he wakes up again, the train is already 1,500 miles away in Calcutta.
Saroo speaks Hindi while the people in Calcutta speak Bengali. He doesn’t even know how to pronounce the name of the village he left behind correctly, so they can’t help him find his family. Saroo becomes another street kid sleeping on pavements with other street children and scrounging for food.
Saroo then tries to search for his missing family in India, with the help of Google Maps. One of the most touching scenes in the film is when he tells his adoptive mother, Sue, that he has been searching for his family of origin but he’s doing it secretly because he didn’t want to hurt the feelings of his adoptive parents Sue and John who have been so kind and helpful to him, giving him a comfortable life so far away from the life of poverty he left in India.
How deeply sincere Sue and John are in helping others can be seen in the other boy they have also adopted along with Saroo. This boy is already so damaged and traumatized when Sue got him and he has the habit of physically hurting himself. And yet, Sue and John continue to love and care for him deeply and unconditionally even if he failed to adjust to his new home the way Saroo did.
Dev Patel is nominated as best supporting actor in the Oscars for his performance as Saroo, and it’s because he shares the movie with the boy who played Saroo, Sunny Pawar, who also gives a great and winning portrayal. Nicole Kidman is nominated as best supporting actress for her very quiet performance as the very devoted Sue. Her best scene is when she explains to Saroo why she and John have decided to adopt him. Kidman is an adoptive mother in real life and she speaks her lines with such palpable truth and emotion.
In the end, when the real Saroo and his real adoptive parents are shown reunited in the movie, you cannot help but feel very emotional for the journey they have all taken. Truth is really stranger than fiction. As directed by Garth Davis, the Australian production will tug at your heartstrings without blatantly manipulating your emotions. It just stimulates your tear ducts with its bitter sweet emotions of mixed joy and sorrow, especially when you finally learn what happened to Guddu. And you maybe wondering why the title is “Lion”. We assure you that it will be adequately explained by the time the film ends as an astounding story of hope, survival and determination.