Everybody knows that truth can be stranger than fiction. “Lion,” based on A Long Way Home, the autobiography of Saroo Brierley, has more than its share of strangeness with real-life heartbreak, suspense, and incredible, dramatic circumstances. If you want to be transported and experience a human story that will exceed your expectations, don’t miss any opportunity to see “Lion.” Nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, “Lion” deserves the accolades.
Unless you’ve seen it first-hand, it’s difficult to image the hardships of children born into poverty in India. “Lion” solidifies the horrors. For five-year old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) and his teenaged brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) life in the small village of Ganesh Talia proves hard. It consists of helping their mother Kamla (Priyanka Bose) scavenge so they won’t go hungry. In one of the opening scenes, the two children steal coal from atop a moving train to have something to sell for milk. Dangers lurk everywhere, and their mother has no choice but to allow the two brothers free-range to do whatever they can to survive.
When Guddu determines to take another train ride, this one on a journey for promised work, little Saroo begs to go with him. Against his better judgment, Guddu takes him even though the work must be completed at night, and he doubts that a five-year-old can do it. By the time the brothers arrive, little Saroo is fast asleep. Guddu leaves him on a station bench, telling him to stay put. When Saroo awakens and finds himself alone, he ventures onto an empty train on the platform and calls for Guddu.
Suddenly, the train, which has been taken out of passenger service, lurches forward. Saroo finds himself trapped as the train speeds through villages and cities for days and days. When it finally stops, Saroo will be in Calcutta (now Kolkata), a huge city more than 1,600 miles from his village. He doesn’t speak the language, and no one can understand his pleas for his mother and brother.
Fate intervenes to shape Saroo’s life in ways he could never imagine. Time passes, and 25 years after that eventful train ride, Saroo (Dev Patel) finds himself haunted by memories of his childhood. He hopes that his adopted parents, Sue and John Brierley (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham), will understand his passion to find the pieces of the puzzle that will somehow make him whole again.
Saroo’s will to discover the mysteries of that fateful journey and his quest to find himself and his homeland will become an obsession, one that he cannot ignore.
The struggle will lead him to strange places, not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. In some ways, Saroo’s journey to find his roots transcends geography and encompasses the landscape of the human heart. This is a journey you’ll want to take with him.
Rated PG-13 for thematic material and some sensuality.
Marilyn Robitaille has been writing film reviews for the Empire-Tribune since 1999.