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Cinema in Focus: ‘Lion’

3 Stars — Wholesome

Nothing can be more terrifying to a parent than the experience of losing a child in a crowd. A sense of panic can set in that leads you to think the worst. No matter how comforting the words of others are intended to be, you can easily feel that the most horrible kind of evil is present. It is here where your faith is put to the test.

Lion takes us on a 25-year journey through the true life story of Saroo Brierley (Sunny Pawar as a child, Dev Patel as an adult), a 5-year-old child who gets lost when under the care of his brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) in Calcutta, India, thousands of miles from his home, where he lives in poverty with his mother.

For a quarter-century, he physically and emotionally wanders through the experiences of his life, lamenting the fact that his mother is undoubtedly agonizing over his loss and well-being.

Saroo’s true story has a series of miraculous twists and turns with a happy ending, when in 2012 he was able to use the modern technology of Google Earth to discover the actual location of his original home and he is reunited with his birth mother. His life journey was not completely pain-filled either.

Along the way, he was placed in an orphanage and eventually educated and raised in a life of luxury by Sue and John Brierley (Nicole Kidman, David Wenham), an Australian couple who chose to adopt two Indian children to give them a chance to grow up off the streets of India’s notorious slums. His search for his roots is aided by the circumstances of people and friends with the means to give him help.

Director Garth Davis masterfully lets us walk through the emotions of both a 5-year-old lost on the streets and a 26-year-old rediscovering who he was without giving up who he is.

For anyone who has been on the streets of India or any poor Third World country, the sights of children on their own is vastly different from what we experience in the United States or other developed countries. We may have a moment of fear when we hear a story of a child being lost in Disneyland, but in India there are more than 30,000 children younger than age 10 living on the streets on their own. It becomes mind-numbing when you experience so many people living in poverty. When you go into any orphanage in India, especially those that are run by faith-based organizations, your heart melts at the sight of children being loved and cared for in the midst of harrowing circumstances.

Children and young adults are taken from the streets every night by men who want to use them for sex or labor. Statistics show that the amount of this kind of slavery is the highest that it has ever been in history, and the chances of a child surviving into adulthood without severe trauma is remote. It is a miracle, then, that the real-life Saroo was protected and nurtured in body, mind and spirit. Adults who choose to adopt a child in these circumstances are true miracle workers.

It was only after Saroo reconnected with his birth mother that he learned that he had been mispronouncing his name all of his life. When translated, his real given name means “Lion.”

At the end of the movie, you get to meet the real adult Saroo, including his birth mother and his adopted mother. This is a story that will remind you of the true nature of love being expressed in so many ways. It is the lost being found and the poor being saved in the best sense of the words and their pure meaning.

Discussion

» Making the journey with Saroo through both his being lost and then returning to his home would be unbelievable if it was not true. Is it your experience that life truly is more fascinating than fiction? Why do you answer as you do?

» There are many ministries that are working to protect the lost children of our world. Two such organizations are Street Child United and Set Free Movement. What are you doing to protect the children of our world?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is the retired pastor of Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara and lead superintendent of Free Methodist Church in Southern California. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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