‘Lion’ starts off with a strong sense of the calm before the storm, with a scene that’s much like a dream I had when I was a child- a small figure standing contentedly in a field of yellow butterflies. The small figure is Saroo, who we quickly discover is small yet mighty like a lion. Based on ‘A Long Way Home’ by Saroo Brierley and Larry Buttrose, this grounding movie tells the tale of a young boy’s journey as an orphaned child in Calcutta through a series of captivating scenes, bringing to attention the disturbing world of sex trafficking and poverty in India.
Dev Patel (‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’) provides the audience with a glimpse of the disquieting confusion that often plagues orphans and foster children when arriving at a crossroad in life: should I find my real parents? In addition, I was drawn to his portrayal of someone who faces guilt that he was pulled out of the slums and into a first world country- guilt for abandoning the prospect of finding his family.
As sound as Patel’s performance was, however, I found myself particularly captivated by the first time actor Sunny Pawar, who played young Saroo. With his heart-achingly vulnerable yet fierce performance, Pawar carried a large part of the story’s emotional weight that I’m sure will part waters for his career.
The adapted screenplay by Luke Davies made sure to emphasize the different landscapes and environments between India and Australia, where young Saroo eventually moves to unite with adoptive parents. This brought with it a sense of culture shock to the audience that Saroo faced at the time: a stocked refrigerator, a television, and a boat to sail the clean waters.
This movie seamlessly ties in Saroo’s past and present, dark and light, the two sides of him that have been at war since first having been lost at the train station.
Saroo’s story is a stark reminder to people of all ages, of all races and ethnicities, that the world can never define how loudly you roar, and that it can never break down the heart of a lion.