Based on the non-fiction book, A Long Way Home, by Saroo Brierley with Larry Buttrose, the Oscar-nominated film, “Lion” tells the heartrending story of 5-year-old, Saroo (Sunny Pawar), who accidentally becomes lost on a train in India and ends up 1,500 kilometers from his home.
Experiencing untold adventures, Saroo, with his large, black, sad eyes, tells people the name of his home town but his mispronunciation makes them unable to help him find his way back. When asked what his mother’s name is, he says, “mum.” (It’s ok to cry at this point!) He narrowly escapes human traffickers and ends up in a dubious orphanage for homeless children.
Mercifully, a social worker finds him a home with an Australian couple, Sue and John Brierley (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). They offer him love and solace that he innocently absorbs. They adopt another Indian child as well whom they later find out is mentally disturbed. Twenty years later Saroo (Dev Patel) goes to Melbourne to study hotel management. He meets Lucy (Rooney Mara) and they begin a relationship.
At a party, a childhood memory is triggered when Saroo sees a type of Indian food that he remembers asking his brother for once, but they were too poor to afford it. He realizes he is truly lost, not knowing where his roots are or to whom he really belongs. He then begins an emotional search for his home and family, taking the suggestion of a friend who calculates how long the train ride would have been and at what speed, thus determining the circumference of possible Indian towns.
Overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, Saroo isolates himself, even from John, Sue, and Lucy. He feels the excruciating pain of his unknown past, somehow feeling that to understand who he is now, he needs to connect to who he was then. He is determined to find that connection—a deep-seated, insatiable need in the human soul. We all long to know who we are, where we come from and to whom we belong. As much as we fight against it sometimes in our individualistic culture, we need other human beings. We need connection.
In a discouraging moment during his search, Saroo uses Google Earth to see pictures of the places on his map. He comes upon and recognizes the rock quarries where his mother worked. He follows the paths to a town where his memory leads him to his family home. He leaves immediately for India to find his mother, brother and sister, lost to him for twenty years. The reunion is emotional, touching, tragic and profound.
No person or circumstance can take away the natural ties to family. It is the clue to who we are as a human being. We all seek. We all desire to know where we come from and where we are going. This is a hungering in the human heart. There is a deep spiritual connotation to this film, since we all belong to God, the Creator of all and we are restless until we are with our Father in heaven. We all seek connection, communion. We all need to belong.