Story

Lion is based on the book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierly. It’s a true story about Saroo’s life.

As a child, Saroo (Sunny Pawar) lives in the slums of India with his mother (Priyanka Bose), older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) and younger sister Shekila (Khushi Solanki). Both boys have to help their mother by working with her, carrying stones and helping to feed the family in resourceful ways. Saroo’s mother also works at night and leaves the boys to look after their baby sister. Guddu also works at night, leaving the two younger children alone. One night, five-year-old Saroo begs his brother to let him come along. Against his better judgment Guddu relents but after a short train ride, Saroo falls asleep and Guddu leaves him to sleep on a bench on a train station platform. Saroo awakes to find himself alone in the dark and wanders onto a stationary train. He falls asleep again and wakes up again, this time to find he’s trapped on the train, which is now moving fast. The train travels 1500 kilometres, and when Saroo finally escapes he’s stranded on the dangerous streets of Calcutta.

After some scary experiences, Saroo meets Noor (Tannishtha Chatterjee). She befriends him and takes him home, only to introduce him to a creepy man who has sinister motives. Saroo runs away. After living on the streets for two months, he ends up in an overcrowded orphanage. There a Tasmanian couple, Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John Brierly (David Wenham) select him for adoption.

Saroo (played as an adult by Dev Patel) grows up in his new loving family and goes on to higher education in Melbourne, but his past keeps haunting him. He decides to try to find his birth mother and, with the use of Google Earth, eventually identifies his hometown. He goes back to India to look for his mother.

Themes

Poverty; abandonment; separation from family; adoption

Violence

Lion has some violence. For example:

  • Saroo sleeps on a cardboard box with other children in a subway. Some men ambush and attack the children. Many of the children are caught and a girl screams for help, but Saroo manages to escape.
  • Saroo runs onto the street and is hit by a bus, but he isn’t badly hurt.
  • Saroo is carrying a watermelon home when he’s hit by a motorbike. He has blood on his face, but he isn’t badly hurt. He’s left with a scar on his forehead.
  • A boy called Shonedeep is seen constantly banging his head on a wall and has to be physically restrained.
  • Mantosh (Keshav Jadhav), Saroo’s adopted brother, starts hitting himself with a knife then attacks Saroo. John has to restrain him.
  • Saroo and his girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara) fight verbally.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, Lion has many scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years, particularly the images of poverty in India.

From 5-8
In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, Lion has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:

  • Saroo and Guddu climb onto a moving train to steal coal. Guddu screams when the train goes through a tunnel, and both boys jump off when a guard finds them.
  • Saroo lives in a shack where all the family sleep together on the ground.
  • Saroo wakes up to find himself alone on a bench at a station. He’s very frightened and runs around screaming for his brother Guddu. He falls asleep on a stationary train and wakes up alone after the train has started to move. He’s on the train for some days with no food, and he scavenges for scraps left on the train.
  • Saroo is lost among throngs of people on the streets of Calcutta. The people in Calcutta speak a different language from Saroo, and no-one can understand him. He tries to catch a train back to his hometown, but no-one can understand the name of the town he comes from.
  • Saroo sleeps under a boardwalk in torrential rain. He goes fossicking in a rubbish dump.
  • A boy’s dead body is shown in a funeral procession.
  • The orphanage looks very frightening. Many children stand behind bars and call out.

From 8-13
Children in this age group might be disturbed by many of the scenes mentioned above. They might also be disturbed by the following scenes:

  • Sue and John adopt another boy called Mantosh, who is obviously a very disturbed child. He screams, thrashes around and has to be physically restrained. He causes a lot of problems for Sue and John throughout his life.
  • Saroo meets Lucy at college. She tells him that her mother died from cancer five years previously.

Over 13
Younger children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.

Sexual references

Lion has some sexual references. For example:

  • The man at Noor’s house lies on the bed next to Saroo and inspects him physically. The man says, ‘He’s just what they want’. The implication is that the man wants Saroo for a child sex ring.
  • One of the young boys in the orphanage is taken out in the night by guards. The guards give the boy to someone and tell that person to have the boy back by dawn.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

Lion shows some use of substances. For example:

  • Characters drink at various venues.
  • Mantosh smokes.

Nudity and sexual activity

Lion has some nudity and sexual activity. For example, Saroo and Lucy are shown in bed several times, and Saroo is shown naked from the waist up. They kiss passionately but nothing more is shown.

Product placement

Lion shows the use of Google Earth.

Coarse language

Lion has some coarse language.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Lion is a true story based on the autobiographical book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierly. This is a highly emotional but beautifully portrayed story of courage and tenacity, tracing Saroo’s accidental separation from his family, his adoption and his search for his birth mother.

The scenes of poverty in India are quite distressing, and these scenes and the movie’s themes make it most suitable for teenagers and adults. We don’t recommend this movie for children under 12 years, and we also recommend parental guidance for children aged 12-15 years.

The main messages from this movie are about the bonds between a mother and her child and the importance of a loving family.

This movie could give you the chance to talk with your children about inter-country adoption and the importance of looking after people who aren’t as well off as you are.