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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Garth Davis|
|Screenplay by||Luke Davies|
|Based on||A Long Way Home
by Saroo Brierley
|Edited by||Alexandre de Franceschi|
|Box office||$75.3 million|
Lion is a 2016 drama film directed by Garth Davis (in his feature debut) and written by Luke Davies, based on the non-fiction book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley with Larry Buttrose. The film stars Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham and Nicole Kidman.
The film, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2016, was released in a limited release on November 25, 2016, by The Weinstein Company before opening wide on January 6, 2017. It was released in Australia on January 19, 2017 and in the United Kingdom on January 20, 2017, and has grossed $75 million worldwide. It received six Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Patel), Best Supporting Actress (Kidman) and Best Adapted Screenplay. It also received five nominations at the 70th British Academy Film Awards, winning two for Best Supporting Actor (Patel) and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Saroo lives with his elder brother Guddu, his mother and sister in Khandwa, India. Guddu and Saroo steal coal from freight trains to afford milk and food. One day Saroo follows his brother to a job away from home, and they arrive at a train station, where Saroo stays and awaits Guddu's return. When Guddu does not come, Saroo searches for him and boards a train. He falls asleep and wakes to find the train is moving with no one onboard and he can't get off. After several days he finds himself in faraway Calcutta, where he doesn't understand the Bengali language. He joins a ticket queue and tries to obtain a ticket home, but the attendant does not recognise the name of his village, which Saroo gives as "Ginestlay". He spends the night in the train station with street kids, but is then forced to flee from a group of adults.
Saroo continues to wander around the city before coming across Noor, a seemingly friendly woman who brings him back to her apartment. She tells Saroo that a man, Rama, will help him find his way home. Saroo meets Rama and it is implied that Rama intends to sell Saroo into the child sex trade. Saroo runs away and escapes Noor when she pursues him. A man eventually takes Saroo to the police. Unable to trace his family, they put him in an orphanage. Three months later, Saroo is brought to Mrs. Sood, who tells him she has placed an advertisement in a widely read newspaper, but no one has claimed him. She then tells him that an Australian couple want to adopt him. She begins to teach Saroo English and he moves to Hobart, Tasmania under the care of Sue and John Brierley. Later they adopt another boy, Mantosh, who has trouble adjusting to his new home and suffers from rage and self-harm.
Twenty years later, Saroo moves to Melbourne to study hotel management. He starts a relationship with Lucy, an American student. As they share Indian food with friends, he sees some jalebi which he remembers from his childhood, which he starts to recall. He confides that he is adopted, and his friends suggest he use Google Earth to search for his hometown in India. Saroo begins to search but over time disconnects from Lucy, overwhelmed by the thought of the emotions his family must have gone through when he was missing.
Saroo visits Sue, whose health is deteriorating, and learns that she is not infertile, but chose to help others in need through adoption, believing that there were already too many people on Earth. Saroo spends a long time searching fruitlessly for his hometown. One evening, while scanning Google Earth, he notices the rock formations where his mother worked, and then finds the area where he lived: the town is called Khandwa, and the neighbourhood Ganesh Talai. He finally tells his adoptive mother about his search, and she fully supports his efforts.
Saroo returns to his hometown, where he has an emotional reunion with his biological mother and sister, but learns that Guddu is dead. The film ends with captions about the real Saroo's return to India in February 2012. Guddu was killed by a train the same night that they went to the station as children. Their mother never gave up hope that one day her missing son would return, and never moved away from the village. Photos of the real Australian family are shown, as well as a video of Saroo and Sue meeting his biological mother in India, who deeply appreciates Sue's care of her son. Saroo later learned that he had been mispronouncing his own name, which was actually Sheru, a diminutive for sher, the Hindi word for "lion"
The film is based on Saroo Brierley's memoir A Long Way Home. While writing the screenplay, Screenwriter Luke Davies acknowledged the challenges of adapting a book primarily about an online search. He said, "It was finding the right balance of the big cinema “no-no,” which is that screens on screens is not good. Yet we felt very strongly that our situation was quite different from the usual procedural crime drama TV model, where there are a whole bunch of actors that are crammed with exposition-heavy dialogue pointing at computer screens. We felt that we were a million miles away from that. The relationship with the technology was instigated by a purely and deeply emotional drive and desire to make it to the end of the myth – to find wholeness with the reunification with the lost mother and to find out who you are." In October 2014, Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman were cast in the film for the lead roles, although they were nominated in supporting categories. In January 2015, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Priyanka Bose, Tannishtha Chatterjee, and Deepti Naval joined the cast. In April 2015, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, and Divian Ladwa also joined the cast. Pallavi Sharda also joined the film's cast to play Saroo's friend. Hauschka and Dustin O'Halloran composed the film's score.
Principal photography on the film began in January 2015 in Kolkata, India. In mid-April, filming moved to Australia, where it took place in Melbourne and Hobart. Kidman filmed her scenes in Australia.
The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2016. It served as the opening night film at the Zurich Film Festival on September 22, 2016. It also screened at the London Film Festival on October 12, 2016, and at the Hamptons International Film Festival on October 7 and 8, 2016.
As of February 19, 2017[update], Lion has grossed $36.4 million in the United States and Canada and $38.9 million in other countries for a worldwide total of $75.3 million, against a production budget of $12 million.
Lion received generally positive reviews, with the performances of Patel and Kidman praised. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, it has an approval rating of 86% based on 182 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 7.3/10. The critical consensus reads, "Lion's undeniably uplifting story and talented cast make it a moving journey that transcends the typical cliches of its genre." On Metacritic the film has a score of 69 out of 100 score, based on 45 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Brian Truitt of USA Today wrote: "The finale is manipulative in every way, squeezing out the emotions of the audience. But Lion's well-plotted narrative and thoughtful characters suck you in so much that the journey there is totally worth it". Some critics mentioned that parts of the film move along at a slow pace. For example, Anthony Lane of The New Yorker wrote: "... based on a true story; though wrenching, there is barely enough of it to fill the dramatic space, and the second half is a slow and muted affair after the Dickensian punch of the first."