Reviewing Movies: Lion

Director Garth Davis brings us Lion, a powerful and most beautiful movie that showcases the true story of Saroo Brierly (Sunny Pawar as young Saroo and Dev Patel, of Chappie and Slumdog Millionaire, as adult Saroo), a five-year-old child who finds himself lost in a foreign place, is later adopted by Australian parents, who then seeks to ensue upon an emotional and spiritual journey back home to India. The cinematography itself is inspiring, whether we are viewing shots of India, or the cliffs of Tasmania. Davis' direction is spot on, telling half of this story through the eyes of a child, and then capturing an adult perspective without losing sight of young Saroo back home in India.

If you think that this is the type of movie that is going to rip your heart right out of your chest and make you weep uncontrollably, both for joy and for pain, you are absolutely correct -- and you will thank God for the experience. Young Saroo cannot be mentioned without considering either his brother, Guddu, or his mother, Kamla, for each deeply loves the other as much as they love themselves. When Guddu is out one day looking for work, and Saroo is tagging along, Saroo becomes extremely tired, and lays on a bench, while Guddu continues his search. But Guddu, for whatever reason, is delayed.

Awaking much later, Saroo cannot find his brother, and boards a train, thinking that perhaps he is on board and looking for left-over treasures from previous passengers, as they both were accustomed to doing. But Guddu cannot be found. So Saroo, again, falls asleep. Only, this time when he awakes, the train has been traveling for hundreds of miles. He cannot leave the train because the doors are locked. So he ends up almost a thousand miles from home, where the dialect is different, and the people cannot understand when he tries to tell them from where he has traveled and how to get back home.

He is taken to an orphanage, awaiting an adoption, when he is chosen by an Australian couple, John (David Wenham) and Sue Brierly (Nicole Kidman), Sue, at age 12, having experienced a vision of adopting a brown child. He is given a good home, educated, and raised in Tasmania (approx. 150 miles south of the Australian continent). At a college party, at the house of Indians living in Australia, Saroo sees an Indian food on the counter in the kitchen and has a flashback of his childhood and his brother. This experience catapults him into a compulsive obsession to finding his home (his mother, his brother, his sister) back in India. Movie critic for The Detroit News Adam Graham remarks: "Everyone has a home, and everyone feels connected to it, no matter how far they travel."

Our critic is, of course, correct. We cannot escape our heritage; we carry it with us wherever we go; and it is part of what shapes our character, our personality, our essence as unique human beings. Saroo can be raised in Tasmania, in an Australian context, but never escape India -- India is part of his very soul. This is why he must return home; and the return itself is both exhilarating and painful. What I most wanted to know is whether Saroo remained in India or if he returned to Australia. An adult Saroo, once home and rejoined with loved ones, learns that he has been mispronouncing his name: Saroo is actually Sheru, stemming from sher, the Hindi word for Lion.

Saroo is a Lion of a five-year-old and the telling of this story on screen is also a Lion of a movie. Lions are symbols of strength, courage, fearlessness, as well as royalty and stateliness. Lions are leaders. Lions are fighters. Lions are brave. Lions are hunters. The Lion in Saroo hunted his past with skill and unparalleled determination. He pursued the prey of his past intent on capture. But this Lion is also tenderhearted and compassionate -- willing to confront wrong-doing and protect the marginalized. This is a movie for us all. May we all "come home" to all that shaped us; may we reconcile, forgive, and embrace all of reality with an eye on redeeming the past, the present, and the future.


RATING: 5 out of 5


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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.