By John Liu
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Our family usually has a Christmas tradition of watching a movie together on Christmas Day. My mom wanted to watch Lion after catching an interview of Saroo Brierley on TV. Lion had a limited release on Dec. 25, which meant it was playing at only 500 theaters. We were extremely fortunate.
Lion is a drama film based on the book, “A Long Way Home,” written by Saroo Brierley, with Larry Buttrose, and is also the feature film debut for director Garth Davis.
If you have not heard of Saroo before, his story is a real miracle. When Saroo was 5, he was separated from his family after getting on a train, trying to find his way. He was locked in that train as it traveled 1,000 miles from his hometown. Before that life-changing day, we get to know a boy who is not afraid of taking on any challenges. That series of unfortunate events started when Saroo agreed to accompany his brother on a night job to help make extra money for his family. After the long journey, Saroo is too tired to continue and waits on a bench at a train station. When Saroo awakes, his brother is nowhere to be found. He panics, gets on a train and falls asleep. The train takes him to Calcutta, where he survives three weeks alone without speaking the local dialect. Eventually, Saroo finds his way to an orphanage and is adopted by a wealthy Australian family.
Twenty-five years later, Saroo starts retracing his steps with Google Earth to find the Indian village where he grew up. I can barely recall any memories I had at age 5. To think someone was able to find their way back home after spending hours on Google Earth is unfathomable, but it happened. In the movie, it looked like he had spent, at the most, a few years to find his home village, but in reality, it took 6 years on and off. Many times, he gave up in frustration.
The movie is separated into two halves. The first half, Sunny Pawar plays a young Saroo. Sunny has no professional acting experience, but plays Saroo perfectly. I was definitely feeling fear and sympathy at the lost child roaming the streets of India.
The second half of the movie is played by Dev Patel, at Saroo’s current age of 25. Sometimes, it’s hard to get immersed in the story because I’m so familiar with Dev Patel’s work as the Indian protagonist in many movies, such as Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi, and The Man Who Knew Infinity. Although this half is not as exciting as the first, it provides a narrative of how Saroo balances his family and struggles to find his birth mother. Nicole Kidman does an outstanding job playing Sue Brierley, the adopted mother of Saroo. She goes through a rollercoaster of emotions trying to raise two Indian kids with different needs.
I had already seen two other emotional 2016 biopics: Sully and Deepwater Horizon. Lion was no different and had me getting teary-eyed at the end of the movie. An incredible journey of survival makes anyone have the feels. If you are wondering why this movie is called Lion, I would advise that you not look it up. The reason is explained in the movie.
Lion has grossed around $7,000,000 domestically in just over 500 theaters. This is an excellent start for a limited distribution film. Lion is showing at Seattle Regal Meridian, AMC Loews Oak Tree, and Sundance Cinemas Seattle.
John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.