Have you seen LION?
I saw it a week ago with my daughter, and my heart still swells in sweetness and agony when I think about it. I can’t remember when I last had a movie so touch my heart. In a grieving way (for a while) and then, in a glorious way. Both ends of the spectrum, this movie. That fact that it is based on a true story makes it even more wrenching. And wonderful.
Imagine a five-year old named Saroo lost in a train station. A beautiful Indian boy in shorts and button down shirt, roaming around in search of his older brother, Gudu. (The darling actor who plays the young child is Sunny Pawar. This is his first film.) He is alone on a train, off the train, on another train, sleeping on cardboard in the train station, frightened eyes darting around, his child voice calling “Gudu!” at every turn. He is alone sooooo long.
He falls asleep, tear streaks on his face. He munches an apple core he finds under a train bench. He runs from older men with terrible plans for young children; he escapes the care of a woman who to takes him in, but then makes plans to turn him over to another malevolent character. (The number of homeless and missing children in India is one issue this film hopes to bring to our attention.) I could not stand seeing this innocent child get dustier and more lonely.
My mother’s heart was so tense and sad and raw the first hour of this film. I think it was accentuated by the fact that this little actor reminded me of our youngest son when he was five – dark hair, big brown eyes, gangly little frame. I was aching so badly for this child to be rescued. I blinked away tears for 45 minutes. I kept thinking, if this movie does not have a good ending, I will die. I will croak right here in this seat.
Be calm. It does. It has a beautiful ending that had me in tears again.
Saroo is eventually placed in an orphanage and then adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman is lovely) and twenty years later, the young man Saroo is on a search to find his blood mother and his older brother, Gudu, whom the viewer is also wondering about. Young adult Saroo is haunted by bits and pieces of his early childhood (before he goes missing) and his journey home is quite a struggle. He deals with his adopted brother, who has emotional issues, and he finds love, but almost loses it.
You root for Saroo the entire movie – the kid has had enough already. He just wants peace and wholeness. He is a lost soul, but a kind young man, and you love the twenty-five year old as much as you loved the precious, abandoned waif.
This movie will touch anyone, but I think Moms are especially drawn in, because you cannot imagine the horror of having your young child lost amidst millions of people, some who would do him harm. It’s every parent’s nightmare.
And this actor, this little kid…you feel like he’s yours. So many adults brush him aside. Predators chase him. Other street children stare at him with glassy eyes, but can’t do anything; they’re in the same perilous boat. It is the most hopeless situation, and you are begging the story to present some relief. Bring the hero, I kept thinking. Where’s the hero?
Heroes do appear in various forms. Eventually. And Saroo does find peace. Eventually. The ending is glorious, because the longing is so extended and persistent.
Oh, and by the way, viewers are unclear about what the title means until the very end. And then…oh, my word. So endearing. Warm, soothing tears.
The child Saroo (Sunny Pawar) and the adult Saroo (Dev Patel)
LION is movie-making at its best. It grips your heart, and I loved, loved, loved it. Don’t miss it.