Lion, featuring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara
–Review by Ashley Linne
Lion tells the emotional and beautiful true story of an Indian boy named Saroo who was lost on the streets of Calcutta at age 5, adopted by an Australian family, and 25 years later searches for his family of origin. It received 6 Oscar nominations, won 2 BAFTA awards, and won the DGA award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film Director.
There is a stark contrast between the first and second halves of the film, and the last few minutes will have you in tears if the rest of the film hasn’t already. The richness of the locations, the colors, the actors—it all encompasses you in Saroo’s world. You feel everything he feels; at least I pray for your sake that you do.
Saroo is desperately lost as a boy. As a young adult, Saroo is still lost and struggles to know who he is—is he Indian? Is he Australian? Is he both, or neither? Who (and where) is his family? Will he ever have peace? Will he ever be found? If we’re honest, we all know what this feels like. Maybe we’ve run from it for years and faked our way through life, but at the core we all have the same questions of meaning, significance, and belonging. We all look for signs to show us where, and with whom, home is.
This film beautifully illustrates the complexities of adoption. For those who are adoptees or who are families who have been through the adoption process, particularly transracially, I would recommend watching without young adopted children. While there is not anything explicit presented visually, the story is true to what life was like for Saroo as an extremely vulnerable child on the streets of Calcutta. The first 40 minutes are particularly sensitive and could be triggering for some kids. I could see this film opening up incredibly healing conversations for adoptive families, but also potentially stirring some deeper wounds that some older adoptees, like Saroo, have perhaps felt unable to discuss with anyone up to now.
Lion is also valuable to all of us who have never been a part of adoption. We need to be aware of the intricate lives and realities for our friends who are adopted, who have adopted children, or who have given their children for adoption. The unique challenges of foster families as well are frequently overlooked or underestimated. The film’s nuances bring to light the desperate need for our churches to be places of safety, support, and refuge for these families and individuals, in ways that are permanently present. The ministry foster and adoptive families have is really a ministry of the church universal—to seek, find, and incarnationally love the most vulnerable among us.
There were several times in the film when I thought, wow… Saroo needs someone to save him right now. Don’t we all? Children of course might not usually know how to ask for help. The sad reality is that many of us adults, and especially those of us in ministry, don’t know how to ask for help either. We suffer silently on our own as we struggle with questioning who we are, who others are, what significance we hold in the world. We look at what we’ve given our lives to and are tempted to tear it down in despair because it just doesn’t seem to be working. We find ourselves lost. We need Jesus, and we need each other.
You can watch Lion on Netflix.