Lion (2016 film)

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Lion (2016 film).png
Australian release poster
Directed by Garth Davis
Screenplay by Luke Davies
Based on A Long Way Home
by Saroo Brierley
Produced by
Cinematography Greig Fraser
Edited byAlexandre de Franceschi
Music by
Distributed by
Release date
  • September 10, 2016 (2016-09-10)(TIFF)
  • November 25, 2016 (2016-11-25)(United States)
  • January 19, 2017 (2017-01-19)(Australia)
  • January 20, 2017 (2017-01-20)(United Kingdom)
Running time
118 minutes [2]
  • Australia
  • India
LanguagesEnglish [2]
Budget$12 million [3]
Box office$140.3 million [1]

Lion is a 2016 Australian biographical drama film directed by Garth Davis (in his feature directorial debut) from a screenplay by Luke Davies based on the 2013 non-fiction book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley. The film stars Dev Patel, Sunny Pawar, Rooney Mara, David Wenham and Nicole Kidman, as well as Abhishek Bharate, Divian Ladwa, Priyanka Bose, Deepti Naval, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. It tells the true story of how Brierley, 25 years after being separated from his family in India, sets out to find them. It is a joint production between Australia and the United Kingdom.


The film, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 10 October 2016, was given a limited release in the United States on 25 November 2016, by The Weinstein Company before opening generally on 6 January 2017. It was released in Australia on 19 January 2017 and in the United Kingdom on 20 January 2017.

Lion was well-received by critics, with praise for the acting (particularly from Patel and Kidman), emotion, visuals, cinematography and screenplay; 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 won two BAFTA Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Patel) and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film was also commercially successful making $140 million worldwide, becoming one of the highest-grossing Australian films of all time.


In 1986, Saroo, a five-year-old boy, lives with his elder brother Guddu, his mother and his younger baby sister in Khandwa, India. Guddu and Saroo steal coal from freight trains to trade for milk and food. One night Saroo pesters his brother who is going to work overnight to let him come too. Guddu refuses at first yet finally relents, and they arrive at a nearby train station where Saroo is too tired to stay awake. Guddu places Saroo on a bench and tells him to wait for his return. Saroo promptly falls asleep and when he wakes up Guddu is not there. Saroo searches the station for Guddu and gets on an empty train looking for him. There he falls asleep again in one of the compartments, only to awake sometime later to find the train in motion and the doors locked. After several days the train arrives in faraway Calcutta where 5-year-old Saroo does not understand the local Bengali language. He stands at a ticket counter and tries to obtain a ticket home, but the attendant does not recognise the name of his village, which Saroo says is "Ganestalay". [4] He spends the night in the station with some street children, but is then woken up and forced to run when a group of men try to kidnap them.

Saroo continues to wander around the city before coming across Noor, a seemingly friendly woman who takes him back to her apartment. She tells Saroo that a man named Rama will help him find his way home. Saroo runs away, sensing that Noor and Rama have sinister intentions, and escapes Noor when she chases after him. After two months of living near the Howrah Bridge, Saroo is taken to the police by a young man. Unable to trace his family, they put him in an orphanage. Three months later, Saroo is introduced to Mrs. Sood, who tells him she has placed an advertisement about him in several local newspapers, but no one has responded. She then tells him that an Australian couple is interested in adopting him. She begins to teach Saroo basic English and he moves to Hobart, Tasmania in 1987, under the care of Sue and John Brierley, where he slowly starts to settle into his new adopted lifestyle. One year 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 is now a young man who moves to Melbourne to study hotel management. He starts a relationship with Lucy, an American student. During a meal with some Indian friends at their home, he comes across jalebi, a delicacy he remembers from his childhood. Saroo reveals that he is not from Calcutta and that he has been lost for more than twenty years, and his friends suggest he use Google Earth to search for his hometown in India. Saroo commences his search, but over time disconnects from Lucy, overwhelmed by the thought of emotions his family must have gone through when he was missing.

Saroo visits his adoptive mom, Sue, whose health is deteriorating, and learns that she is not infertile, but had chosen to help others in need through adoption, believing that there were already too many people on Earth. After reconciling with Lucy, 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 Ganesh Talai neighbourhood of the Khandwa district. He finally tells his adoptive mother about his search and she fully supports his efforts.

Saroo returns to his hometown and with the help of a local English speaker, has an emotional reunion with his biological mother and sister. He also learns the fate of his brother Guddu, who was hit and killed by an oncoming train the night of his separation. Saroo's mother never gave up hope nor moved away from the village as she believed that one day her missing son would return home. The film ends with captions about the real Saroo's return to India in February 2012. Photos of the real Australian family are shown, as well as footage of Saroo introducing Sue to his biological mother in India, who deeply appreciates Sue's care for her son. Saroo later learned that he had been mispronouncing his own name for all those years, which was actually Sheru, meaning "lion".



This Australian film [5] 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 that is primarily about an online search.

"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." – Luke Davies [6]

In October 2014, Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman were cast in the film for the lead roles, although they were nominated in supporting categories. [7] In January 2015, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Priyanka Bose, Tannishtha Chatterjee, and Deepti Naval joined the cast. [8] In April 2015, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, and Divian Ladwa also joined the cast. [9] Pallavi Sharda also joined the film's cast to play Saroo's friend. [10] Hauschka and Dustin O'Halloran composed the film's score. [11]


Principal photography on the film began in January 2015 in Kolkata, India. [8] In mid-April, filming moved to Australia, in Melbourne and then to several locations in Tasmania, including Hobart. [12] Kidman filmed her scenes in Australia. [9] [13]


Dustin O'Halloran and Hauschka teamed up to write the score for the film.[ citation needed ] Sia wrote the song "Never Give Up" for the film which also includes the song "The Sun, The Sand And The Sea" from songwriter Jimmy Radcliffe and "Urvasi Urvasi" by A R Rahman. [14] The film also includes songs from artists such as Hercules and Love Affair ("Blind"), Mondo Rock ("State of the Heart"), Enigma ("The Rivers of Belief") and Picturetone Pete and Jimmy Radcliffe ("The Sun the Sand and the Sea"). The ‘Disco King’ legendary Bappi Lahiri's iconic track ‘Come Closer’ from the movie Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki has been picturised on Dev Patel in Australia.

Track listing

All tracks are written by Dustin O'Halloran and Hauschka, except where noted.

1."Never Give Up (by Sia)"3:42
2."Lion Theme"1:58
4."Lost (Part One)"3:06
6."Escape The Station"2:25
8."A New Home"1:54
12."Lost (Part Two)"2:31
13."Falling Downward"3:05
14."Searching For Home"2:16
15."Memory / Connection / Time"1:40
16."Layers Expanding Time"5:31
17."Home Is With Me"3:15


The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 10 September 2016. [15] [16] [17] It served as the opening night film at the Zurich Film Festival on 22 September 2016. [18] It also screened at the London Film Festival on 12 October 2016, [19] and at the Hamptons International Film Festival on 7 and 8 October 2016. [20] The film was released in the United States on 25 November 2016, [21] in Australia on 19 January 2017, [22] and in the United Kingdom on 20 January 2017. [23]

Lion was made available on Digital HD on 28 March 2017, and was then followed by a release on Blu-ray and DVD on 11 April 2017. [24] [25] The film debuted at No. 10 on the Top 20 NPD VideoScan chart. [26]


Box office

Lion grossed $51 million in the United States and Canada and $88.3 million in other countries for a worldwide total of $140.1 million, against a production budget of $12 million. [1]

In its limited opening weekend in the United States and Canada, the film made $123,360 from four theaters (an average of $30,840, the highest of the weekend). [27] On the weekend of 17–19 March 2017, Lion crossed the $50 million mark at the North American box-office, becoming the fifth 2016 film among the Academy Award for Best Picture nominees to surpass this threshold. [28]

In Australia, it opened at number one with $3.18 million, the biggest opening ever for an Australian indie film, and the fifth biggest debut for an Australian film overall. [29] It grossed $22.7 million in five weeks, [30] and eventually grossed $27.729 million as of 13 March 2017, becoming the sixth highest-grossing Australian film ever at the domestic box office. [31]

Critical response

Lion received generally positive reviews, with the performances of Patel and Kidman being praised. [32] [33] On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, it has an approval rating of 84% based on 263 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 7.27/10. 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." [34] On Metacritic the film has a normalized score of 69 out of 100, based on 45 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". [35] PostTrak reported that 92% of audience members gave the film a rating of either "excellent" or "very good". [27]

Dev Patel (29870651654).jpg
Nicole Kidman Cannes 2017 6.jpg
Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman's performances garnered Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.

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". [36] Novelist and critic Salman Rushdie thought highly of the film stating that while he often lacked interest in films nominated for an Oscar, this year he rooted for Lion, believing that "I would like it to win in every category it's nominated for and in most of the categories it isn't nominated for as well." Noting that he wept "unstoppably" while viewing the film, Rushdie said that he is "frequently suspicious of Western films set in contemporary India, and so one of the things that most impressed me about Lion was the authenticity and truth and unsparing realism of its Indian first half. Every moment of the little boy's journey rings true – not an instant of exoticism – and as a result his plight touches us all. Greig Fraser's cinematography portrays the beauty of the country, both honestly and exquisitely [...] Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, in the film's Australian second half, give wonderful performances too." [37]

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." [38]


Lion received six Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Patel), Best Supporting Actress (Kidman) and Best Adapted Screenplay, but did not win in any of the categories. It did win two BAFTA Awards, however, for Best Supporting Actor (Patel) and Best Adapted Screenplay. At Australia's 7th AACTA Awards, it won twelve awards, in all of the categories it was nominated in. [39]

See also

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