Lion is one of the most relevant, and most responsible, films about adoption that I’ve screened. Because of how relevant and important this movie is, this review will follow my regular format, except that the plot summary is very thorough and is combined with the Adoption Connection section. (This is an excerpt from the full Adoption at the Movies Review.)
There are spoilers throughout this review. If you want to avoid spoilers, in a nutshell, here’s what you need to know: If you’re an adoptive parent, you should see this movie. It will not be a good choice for young kids, but it might be helpful for teens to know that a quest like Saroo’s is fine with you. Its portrayal of search and reunion is powerful, healthy, and responsible. This is one of the best adoption-related films I’ve seen. And now, here’s the review:
Strong Points of Lion, The Movie
I love that Lion genuinely shows Saroo’s backstory. A sad truth is that the backstory of many children adopted internationally is lost or unknown. Lion is a strong statement that, even if a story has been forgotten – it is still there to be uncovered. Even if people are unfound, they may still be waiting to be discovered. Saroo tells his adoptive parents, “You adopted our past, too.”
Lion responsibly, realistically, and healthily portrays search and reunion in adoption. Saroo’s adoptive family consistently supports his acceptance of his history. They support his desire to find his birth family, and rejoice when he finds them. Saroo’s birth mother has always waited for Saroo to return, yet she also fully accepts that Saroo’s adoptive parents are his family; she is grateful to them, and understands that Saroo is part of their world. Saroo finds his birth mother, and through her is able to find all the answers that he needs; finding her fills gaps in his life story but does not replace his adoptive family’s role in his life.
Saroo does not give up when well-meaning friends tell him that he needs to accept that his birth family is lost forever. He keeps looking. Although Saroo briefly implies that his adoptive family is not his “real” family, he ultimately realizes that his birth family and his adoptive family are both his real family. Saroo is given room and grace to experience the range of emotions and thoughts that accompany his journey.
Saroo does find that his questions are answered by finding his birth family, and it is notable that his desire to search for them was primarily spurred by his empathy for the grief he imagined they were feeling at losing him. He expresses his need “to find them and let them know I’m OK.” Saroo hid his search from his adoptive parents for some time, explaining “I didn’t want you to feel I was ungrateful.” His adoptive mother tells Saroo that she truly hopes he finds his birth mother, because “she needs to see how beautiful you are.”
Saroo is always trying to do well by those in his life.
The film captures how Saroo’s long-ignored past is still present in his dreams and memories.
Challenges in Lion, The Movie
A child is unexpectedly hit by a vehicle. There are some sad elements to the story. It’s not geared towards younger kids. That said, it’s absolutely worth seeing for adults interested in or touched by adoption.
Lion is beautiful, powerful, engaging, honest, and responsible in its portrayal of the process and emotions involved in adoption search and reunion for adopted people and those who love them. This film should be in adoptive families’ libraries. This gets Adoption at the Movies’ highest recommendation, and is geared towards adults and perhaps some teens.
Questions for Discussion of the movie Lion
- Why did Saroo want to find his birth family? What questions were answered by him finding them?
- How would you respond if your adopted child wanted to find their birth family?
- What did Saroo finding his birth family mean for him? What did it mean for his birth mother? What did it mean for the Brierleys?
About the Author: Addison Cooper is a licensed clinical social worker who writes reviews of adoption-related movies to help families use movies to improve their communication about adoption. He recently published many of his reviews in the book Adoption at the Movies: A year of adoption-friendly movie nights to get your family talking. This book is a valuable tool for families and social workers hoping to open up discussion. You can find Addison on Google + and Twitter.