Recognized for its powerful representation of family, abandonment, hope, and redemption. In the adaptation of Saroo Brierley’s A Long Way Home, director Garth Davis shepherds Dev Patel through the story as the older Brierley and Nicole Kidman as his adoptive mother. Six nominations at the 89th Academy Awards represent a solid resume, including nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Patel), Best Supporting Actress (Kidman), and Best Adapted Screenplay. The power of Brierley’s hope is front and center, moving us in his quest to find his mother after decades being “lost.”
In 1986, five-year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) lives with his older brother, mother, and younger sister in Khandwa, India. Separated from his brother one day at the train station, he ends up miles from home, chased by kidnappers, threatened by the sex trade, and put up in an orphanage. Adopted by an Australian couple (Kidman and Iron Fist’s David Wenham), who also adopt a troubled ‘brother’ (Divian Ladwa) for Saroo, the young man grows well in their care, but longs to know what became of his family.
Studying hotel management in Melbourne, twenty years later, Saroo meets Lucy (Rooney Mara) and several friends who advise him to use Google Earth to track down his family. Soul-searching and Internet-searching go hand-in-hand; what Saroo learns about himself is just as important, possibly even more vital, to his development as a person. But it also raises questions about family and adoption that should provoke us all to thought: what deterines our family and how do we negotiate those interactions?
While the story of Saroo’s faith and belief that he could find his mother is the driving force in the film, it serves up several questions for First Worlders. The scenes where Saroo is nearly sold into sex slavery still trouble me days after watching; the way that the government seems unwilling or unable to help him reconnect with his mother as a child are disturbing. But lest we point a finger at India, I find myself asking, is the U.S. government more effective? Either way, how should people of faith respond to adoption – or those without a voice? If not for the Brierleys, Saroo may never find hope – if not for Sue Brierley’s claiming Saroo as her own, he may never find himself as a child claimed by as loving parent.
Lion’s special features include deleted scenes, Behind-the-Scenes gallery, and Sia’s “Never Give Up.”