Garth Davis' Lion is based on the incredible true story of Australian businessman Saroo Brierley. It is an amazing film. At its heart, it is the story of a lost child's search for his home and family. Set mostly in India and partly in Australia, it has striking similarities to the fictional Bollywood movie Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015).
Sunny Pawar is brilliant as the young Saroo. He stars in the funniest moment of the whole film as, when asked what his mother's name is, he responds "mother!"
British actor Dev Patel, who plays the adult Saroo, has, much like his character, come a long way since his first role on Channel 4's teen drama Skins. These days, long time fans would hardly recognise him- but his abilities as an actor are as clear as ever.
Sue Brierley (Nicole Kidman) and her husband John (David Wenham) adopt the young Saroo from an orphanage in Calcutta. He grows up in Tasmania, Australia, with them and his brother, Mantosh, also adopted from India.
Twenty years later, as an adult, Saroo suddenly remembers the true story of his life. What follows is a search for his home and birth family that, eventually, takes over his present life. He carries out this search using Google Earth. I saw this as proof of something I have always believed - that the Internet, used in the right way, is an extremely positive tool.
Saroo's search for his birth mother is eventually successful. She is, naturally, thrilled to see him, but for me, that was not the most moving moment of the movie. The most moving moment of the movie, for me, was when Saroo phones the Brierleys from India and says "She understands that you are my family. Even though I've found her, that doesn't change who you are." I think this moment can provide hope to anyone who has an adopted child, or anyone who may be considering adopting a child, about how that child may see them as an adult.
In parts, Lion moved me to tears. I could not recommend it highly enough. However, there was one aspect of the film that disappointed me, personally, as a disabled person. That was that I realised almost immediately that Saroo Brierley's adopted brother, Mantosh Brierley, has autism. However, his disability is never revealed clearly in the film. Viewers see him having two meltdowns, one in his early childhood, soon after he arrives in Australia, and another during a family dinner when the brothers are young adults. I was disappointed that Mantosh's autism is never revealed clearly, meaning that viewers who do not know, as I do, how to recognise an autistic meltdown, will never pick up on this significant detail.
What is revealed is that Mantosh, as an adult, stays away from the family and from family events. At one point Saroo asks him not to make Sue "any more unhappy than you already do." He responds "Why do you think I stay away?" To me, this seems like an unrealistic portrayal of autism, as I did not know that people with autism are able to understand when they are making other people unhappy. However, if Mantosh's level of disability had been made a little bit clearer in the film, I may have been able to understand this scene more clearly.
I can't help wondering if Mantosh's disability is explored more in Saroo's book A Long Way Home, on which Lion is based. I look forward to reading the book to find out more about the whole Brierley family. Disability representation aside, if this particular book is even half as good as the movie it was made into, I won't regret reading it.