Lost and Found in Lion

Like its namesake, the movie Lion roars a powerful message about family, identity and the meaning of the journey we are all on to find our place in this world. For those of us connected to adoption, this journey is more complex. Yet Lion manages to capture the essence of the quest to find “home” that many of us have been on at one point or another in our lives. Regardless of whether you have a personal connection to adoption, you’re bound to get lost in Lion. And every person who watches the film will very likely be inspired to think about their identity and yearn to find the parts of themselves that may be missing.

Based on a true story, the premise of Lion seems almost surreal; a small child named Saroo accidentally separated from his family in rural India winds up alone on a train bound for Calcutta then finds his way to an orphanage after being lost for months on the streets. He cannot speak the local dialect, pronounce the town he is from or even correctly pronounce his own name. Ultimately, he is adopted out of India by a couple from Australia. While the premise may seem surreal, Lion portrays this very real experience in a way that avoids the either/or trap others often fall in to when depicting adoption. Lion perfectly describes the imperfections of a life experience that requires every person connected to it to lose something in order to gain something. It portrays the essence of adoption, which will always be that very bittersweet combination of joy and sadness, of laughter through tears.


Nicole Kidman, David Wenham and Sunny Pawar in Lion. (Photo Credit: Mark Rogers)

Lion could speak to every family who has come together through adoption and knows that the truth of this experience is not one simple narrative. What we find in Lion reminds us of how critical it is that adoption is no longer treated like a point-in-time transaction but rather as the transformational experience it truly is for all involved.

Lion could speak to the mothers and fathers who have been separated from children whom they do not parent, yet they undoubtedly feel a connection to throughout their lives.

Lion could speak to the many adopted people who crave knowing their full truth no matter their circumstance. The hunger of Saroo as a young adult to know his full identity is something many adopted people can relate to; the insatiable need to find answers that can render us unable to do much of anything at times other than lose days of our life weeding through haystacks to find the proverbial needle.

Dev Patel stars in LION

Dev Patel as Saroo Brierley in Lion. (Photo: Mark Rogers © Long Way Home Productions 2015)

Lion demonstrates the duality of the adoption experience, which will always be the enduring connection to the family we know through adoption and those we know through birth. Each of these is essential in a person’s identity development. Each of these impacts our relationships. Each of these at times will leave us with more questions than answers. Each of these at times will give us the answers we need.

We do not have to choose which is better or divide our loyalties between the two. But not knowing all the parts that make us who we are will often leave a burning desire to find the missing puzzle piece that is needed to make the picture whole. It is in the journey that we often find the answers to questions we have asked ourselves for many years. We may also find that we had some answers all along.

Lion confronts all of us with some powerful questions: What do we have to lose to gain? What do we gain through our losses? How do we respond to the simple question, “Where are you from?” when the answer is complex and filled with layers of meaning?

Ultimately, home is all around us. It’s about the people in our lives. Those we lose and those we gain. It is those we know whom we have never met. It is the people we meet along the way who help make us who we are today. What you’ll find in Lion is that sometimes you have to lose yourself in order to discover who you are and where you belong.


View the Lion trailer below.

The Donaldson Adoption Institute held a special preview screening of Lion on Friday, November 18, 2016, at the Crosby Street Hotel in New York City. After the screening, DAI Chief Executive April Dinwoodie hosted a Q&A with Saroo Brierley and his adoptive mother, Sue Brierley. View the photo gallery here.

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4 Comments on “Lost and Found in Lion

  1. As an adoptive parent I try to expose myself to narratives that focus on the adoptive child’s experiences, rather than the parents., which tends to dominate. Thank you for this film which explores the pain that many adoptive children must feel. As adoptive parents we must face some hard truths about how our families came to be, usually at the expense of the less fortunate.

  2. What is this giant load of manure?!? How is it “transformational” for the parent that loses the child? How is it “transformational” to end up with a bunch of strangers that pretend to be your parents? This whole thing is nonsense, written by well-meaning White people who self-aggrandize by stealing other people’s kids.

  3. As an adoptee blood is always thicker than water. We may be taken from our mothers and be forced to live with strangers but our dna runs deep and adopters can never remove our dna

  4. Beautifully written…wonderfully articulated, Thank you.
    “Lion perfectly describes the imperfections of a life experience that requires every person connected to it to lose something in order to gain something. It portrays the essence of adoption, which will always be that very bittersweet combination of joy and sadness, of laughter through tears.”

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