Saroo, 5, and his older brother Guddu, 14, spend their days getting rocks from atop train (we learn later this how his mother made a living, collecting rocks to trade in for food). At night his brother goes to find work. This is how they support the family which seems to consist of a mother and a younger sister and no father. One particular night, Saroo wants to go with his brother to help find and do work but his brother keeps insisting he’s too small and won’t be able to help but Saroo can convince him otherwise. Arriving at a train station Saroo is too sleepy to carry on so Guddu leaves him on a bench to go find work. Off goes Guddu leaving Saroo on the bench at the train station to sleep. When Saroo wakes up Guddu is nowhere to be found. Saroo finds a car to sleep in only to wake in the morning with the train moving. Stuck on the train, Saroo ends up traveling far from his home finally getting off at a place he doesn’t know. What makes it worse is no adult would help him.
He soon finds himself in a train station with other homeless kids, one of which offers him cardboard to sleep on. He wakes up to find adult males kidnapping the kids. Saroo and a little girl can run but the little girl is caught. After a night of wondering, Saroo goes back to the train station to get the cardboard that he uses to sleep on as he tries to get back home. Along the train tracks he’s walking he runs into a woman who takes him in and feeds and bathes him but her intentions are not good. Wise to the danger he’s possibly in, Saroo runaway.
The film spends too much time on Saroo’s beginnings. It’s a 1hr 58min movie in which 31 minutes is spent having the viewer follow Saroo through his ordeal. Finally, he meets a man who can help him by taking him to the police who sends him to an orphanage that looks more like a prison than an orphanage. He’s told by another kid that the place is bad. It’s not long before Saroo is adopted by an Australian couple at 46min 14 seconds into the film. Again, way too long. All of what the viewer has seen could have been told in either flashbacks or stories from adult Saroo, which ends up happening. However, since the audience went through his journey as a kid, details are overlooked during his telling of his past.
Having told his story to his co-workers he’s on a journey to go back home. Again, the viewer has to sit through his planning and searching via the computer and maps he has to hang on a corkboard along with his relationship with Lucy.
If the filmmaker wanted us to feel his pain and struggle they did a good job of it. The viewer is transported to whichever time and place Saroo is at that moment. But this could have been avoided. Chalk it up to ADHD, but only about 1hr, if that, was spent watching the movie. The rest of the time was spent fast-forwarding. The film is long and drawn out.
The story is well written but the execution is not. There are films that are over two-hours, and some times, three-hours long and didn’t feel as drawn out as this one did at only 1hr and 58mins.
The actual ending was great. But all that took place in between could have been avoided and told, as mentioned, through Saroo’s storytelling.
Lion – 2016 – Directed: Garth Davis – Written: Saroo Brierley & Luke Davies – 1hr 58mins