Lion Parent Review

Beautifully shot and performed, this adaption of a true story will undoubtedly be considered one of the best films of 2016.

Overall A

As a five-year-old, Saroo (Sunny Pawer) was lost from his family in India. Adopted by an Australian couple (played by Nicole Kidman and David Denham), the boy grew to a man (now played by Dev Patel), yet the memories of his first family still haunted him. Against all odds, he now sets out to find his way back to his childhood home.

Violence B-
Sexual Content B-
Profanity A-
Substance Use C+

Lion is rated PG-13 for thematic material and some sensuality.

Movie Review

Five-year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) begs his big brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) to let him come along when he leaves their one-room dwelling to seek night work. As a poor family living in a small village in rural India, it is necessary for everyone to find ways to put food on the table, including doing odd jobs, begging and perhaps stealing. Normally Guddu would have said “no”, but Saroo was brave enough to help him snitch coal off a moving locomotive just a short while earlier, so the young teen agrees.

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However, the late hour gets the better of Saroo, and Guddu is forced to leave the drowsy youngster on a bench at a train station. Although Guddu promises to come back for him later, he is still not there when Saroo finally wakes up. A little frightened, the child wanders around looking for his older sibling. After a while he seeks shelter inside a parked railroad car where he falls asleep again. This time when the small boy awakes he realizes the train is moving. Not able to escape the confines of the passenger carriage for two days, Saroo is inadvertently transported to the big city of Kalkata (formerly Calcutta).

All alone in the crowded metropolis, Saroo’s pleas for help are not answered by the populace who speak a different language and mistake him for one of the many other beggars who live on the streets. As days turn into weeks and even months, the lost tike survives on scraps of garbage and nearly falls prey to child abductors. Eventually he is granted refuge in a crowded orphanage. From there a charitable agency arranges for him to be adopted by a loving couple from Australia (David Wenham and Nicole Kidman).

As the years go by, Saroo (now played by Dev Patel) takes advantage of the world of opportunities his new life offers. Yet he is haunted by the weight of knowing his first family, especially his mother (Khushi Solanki) and brother, will still be wondering whatever happened to him. It is not until he is an adult that he sees a possible way of discovering the place of his birth – Google Earth. with only his faded childhood memories, Saroo uses the newly invented computer program to scourer the immense country of India and its maze of train tracks. The impossible task of locating his hometown quickly becomes an obsession. Soon his fixation with the past puts his present relationships at risk (including that of his caring, live-in girlfriend played by Rooney Mara) and his hopes for future happiness.

Fortunately, there are few content concerns in the heart pounding and thoughtful telling of this true story, despite the film’s PG-13 rating. Young children may be scared as they watch Saroo navigate an uncertain world where he faces veiled threats (possibly of human trafficking, slavery and sex trade work). Adopted parents and children will likely experiences various feelings as they follow Sarro’s efforts to reconnect with his birth family. And all viewers are sure to be entangled in Saroo’s quest, which reminds us of the strength of family ties and the importance of knowing one’s identity. Beautifully shot and performed, Lion will undoubtedly be considered one of the best films of 2016.

Directed by Garth Davis. Starring Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman, Dev Patel . Running time: 120 minutes. Theatrical release November 25, 2016. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Lion here.

Lion Parents Guide

What reason might there be for a couple to adopt children from another country? What was the reason Saroo’s mother adopted him? What risks are involved in taking in children who might experience cultural differences and/or emotionally scarring memories? What are the rewards?

How was Saroo’s early childhood different than those experienced by youngsters growing up in a first world country? How might the extra responsibility and independence of his poor rural home have helped him when he found himself alone in strange city? Although his situation was very unusual, what information or skills might be helpful for children to know if they were to become separated from their family?

Google Earth provides photographs of much of the planet’s surface and allows users to explore the world. How does this amazing tool help Saroo? What might you be able to do with this computer application?

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