Lion: A Tale of Discovery

Alexa VanHooser, Reporter

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The 2016 Oscars were notorious for their lack of diversity. This year, the Oscars found themselves filled with diverse actors, stories, and styles. Lion is no exception. Though intended for release in select theaters, the spotlight on Indian culture and language provides Americans a fleeting glimpse into a world more than 1.2 billion citizens call home. The Oscar-nominated film finds itself divided between two time periods and areas: 1980s India, and present-day Australia.

Woven with enthralling landscapes and diverse dialogue, Lion captures the narrative of Saroo, a boy who finds himself separated from his family after an ill-fated decision to sleep on the train. After boarding the wrong car in an attempt to find his sibling, Saroo drifts off and awakes to find himself over 1000 kilometers away in Calcutta, India. The expansive distance, however, is just the beginning of the young boy’s troubles.

After nearly being kidnapped by a group of raiders, abducted by a questionable “friend” of a caretaker he encounters, and enduring the overpopulation of an orphanage, Saroo is adopted by a couple in Tasmania. Though their lavish lifestyle is a complete opposite to the impoverished existence he once knew, Saroo finds himself longing to find his old family.

Lion paints an gripping picture of a man’s struggle with identity. Dev Patel, the Oscar-nominated actor who plays Sharoo, translates this struggle through a brilliant performance which relays the internalized struggle his character must face. Patel’s fluctuation in intonation, use of colloquial facial expressions and body language all work in harmony to make the audience feel as though Patel himself has endured a similar struggle. His character becomes increasingly believable as he relates to viewers, almost causing them to forget they’re watching a movie, as opposed to the struggle of a close friend.

Unlike directors who focus on special effects and overtechnicalized shots, director Garth Davis includes an omniscient dynamic through his storytelling. Despite Hollywood’s tendency to cast people of color into static, stereotype-heavy roles, Lion contradicts this practice. Davis encapsulates the impoverished lifestyle and dark backstory most transcontinental adoptees are unaware of, as well as the internal struggle many young adults face regarding their identity. The film provides a refreshing perspective for those struggling with their identity, as the denouement of the movie reveals that – regardless of where people come from, their strength resides in themselves, not their past.

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Lion: A Tale of Discovery