brought to you by
a ministry of America World Adoption
“….a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” - Ecclesiastes 4:12
MOVIE REVIEW: LION
If your life is visibly touched by adoption, you know that anytime a movie comes out that deals with the subject, people ask you all the time if you have seen it. Throughout the time that Lion was in theaters, through its nomination for a Best Picture Oscar award, and even through the countless number of people asking me for my opinion of the movie, I resisted seeing this. I was so afraid of being disappointed, or worse, being angered by the negative stereotypes often portrayed about adoptees in these movies. Then one Saturday night I found myself home alone with a bag of microwave popcorn, so I logged into Netflix and decided to give it a go. And I was not disappointed.
The movie is based on the true-life story of Saroo Brierley from his memoir, A Long Way Home. Through a series of unfortunate events, Saroo, age 5, is separated from his family in India, and accidentally travels more than 1,600 kilometers by train to Calcutta. Calcutta is a dark and dangerous place for Saroo, and we feel his terror and loneliness as he tries to fend for himself, first seeking refuge in the train station and then living for months with other homeless people on the streets of this overcrowded and overwhelming city. The scenes of the movie are powerful, and sometimes what is not said is even more disturbing than what we see on the screen. Your heart will break for all the lost children of India.
Saroo eventually winds up in an orphanage, an equally terrifying place, but is eventually adopted by his new parents, Sue and John Brierley, and his first tour of his new home in Tasmania, Australia, will be very familiar to any parent who has adopted internationally. He adjusts well and thrives in his new home, in stark contrast to the second child adopted by the Brierleys a few years later. Mantosh, also from India, has been so traumatized by his past that his addition to the family brings conflict and anguish for everyone.
The second half of the film opens twenty years later when Saroo is 25 years old. As we observe him interacting with friends, we get the sense of the duality that many international adoptees experience: he looks Indian but speaks only English. He knows very little about the food and culture of his country of origin. Most importantly, he knows nothing of his birth family, and over the months, these missing pieces begin to gnaw at him. His friends tell him about a new technology called Google Earth and encourage him to draw on his sketchy memory of a train station that overlooks a water tower to begin an epic search for his home village. His search consumes him to the point of losing relationships and motivation for anything else. After almost four years of dead ends, and against all odds (warning, spoiler alert), he finds his town, and then travels back to the familiar place of his birth, for a very emotional reunion with his birth mother.
I thought the movie hit on the emotional heart of adoption. When Saroo finally shares his search efforts with his adoptive parents, he says he didn’t tell them earlier because he didn’t want to seem ungrateful to them for adopting him. The scene in which Sue explains why she adopted Saroo and Mantosh will certainly resonate with all adoptive parents – these children were wanted, hoped for, prayed for and loved. Be sure to keep extra tissues handy when you hear the phone message that Saroo leaves on Sue’s phone after he finds his birthmother – beautiful. And don’t you dare turn off the screen when the credits start to roll – my favorite parts of the movie are the outtake pictures of the real Saroo growing up in his adoptive home and the beautiful video of the real Saroo taking his adoptive mother to India to meet his birth mother. Tender. Heartwarming. Priceless.
END SPOILER ALERT
This movie is complex and gripping. Saroo is resilient in the face of adversity and fervent in his loyalties. At the center of this movie is an adoptee who demonstrates an unwavering commitment to his adoptive family while also seeking to satisfy the emptiness that comes from being adopted. Without loss, there cannot be adoption, but this movie offers hope and healing for adoptees who, like Saroo, struggle to find their identity. It is well worth the two-hour investment of your time and will not leave you untouched.
For your adopted children, I would say this movie is only for more mature teens, because of the scary nature of some of the scenes, and the emotional themes. I would encourage you to preview the movie before watching it with any children to decide for your own family what is best, and then, if you do decide to watch it together, plan for lots of discussion time before and after to process and think through all that you see. It is bound to be a great conversation starter, but also likely to bring up many feelings, and it is important that you be prepared to help your child walk through them. Let us know if we can help!
This article was written by Diane Hood, Clinical Supervisor with America World Adoption, and the Director of Social Services in our Georgia office. Diane has more than 20 years experience in the adoption field and she is a parent by birth and by adoption.
ACT (Adoption Coaching and Training) is a ministry of America World Adoption designed to support families through training, support groups, and individualized coaching. Explore ACT services on our website here, and reach out to us today for a free consultation to make a plan to meet your needs.