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Meant to happen

The real ‘Lion’ works unmentioned behind the scenes


Long Way Home Productions

Meant to happen
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Can a Google search be recast as an epic?

At face value, that’s the question Lion seeks to answer. Based on the memoir A Long Way Home, the film follows Saroo Brierley, an Indian boy who loses his family, gets adopted by an Australian couple, and, 25 years later, retraces his steps home with Google Earth.

Google, however, plays a secondary role to themes of adoption and an unspoken Providence.

Young Saroo, played by infectious newcomer Sunny Pawar, becomes separated from his impoverished family when he mistakenly boards a train to Calcutta. A prodigal who never wanted to leave home, he narrowly avoids starvation and sexual abuse until a kindly orphanage superintendent arranges an adoption with John and Sue Brierley (David Wenham and Nicole Kidman).

The Brierleys’ unconditional love for Saroo and adoptive brother Mantosh is touching. “We wanted the two of you in our lives. That is what we chose,” Sue says to a grown Saroo, played by Dev Patel.

The film loses steam soon after Patel shows up, mainly because it’s difficult to maintain suspense during an extended Google search.

Director Garth Davis tries to fill this gap by introducing girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara). The couple make out at raves and in bed (the film is rated PG-13 for thematic material and some sensuality), but their relationship never develops. Alternate scenes of Saroo moping and lusting quickly lose any appeal, but Lion picks up again somewhat when Saroo returns to India.

One of the most powerful themes of the film, however, is never mentioned. The sheer number of “coincidences” in Saroo’s life is striking: his escape from death on Calcutta’s streets, his adoption, his finding and remembering the railway station near his home. Saroo writes in his memoir that while he doesn’t hold to any religion, he believes that everything was “meant to happen” the way it did.

A postscript explains the meaning of the film’s title, but it seems that the real “Lion” who defended Saroo works unmentioned behind the scenes.


Rikki Elizabeth Stinnette Rikki is a World Journalism Institute graduate and a former WORLD contributor.

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