Eighty-thousand children go missing each year in India. Saroo Brierley, author of the autobiography, “A Long Way Home,” was one, and he tells about his incredible journey from India to Australia and back again. The result of the adapted indie drama, Lion, is a well-intended attempt which utilizes a “been there, done that” approach to prove how the community can pitch in to help families across the globe.
Sure enough, being a depressingly heartwarming weepie, Lion starts on a heartbreaking note. Saroo as an adorable little five-year-old oversleeps and loses his way in a dark train station, separated from his older brother. He hops onto a train and arrives at another station far away, and sees no options available other than to sleep on cardboard with other lost kids. The stay gets cut short though, as several kidnappers force him out. He then comes across new parts of India’s culture he never knew existed beyond his mother’s work as a rock-hauler. A hospitable Hindu couple helps Saroo out until he runs away out of desperation. Soon, with hopes of locating his parents, an orphanage takes him in, where beatings occur daily.
Eye-swelling in these first moments are guaranteed while watching a vulnerable little tike lose his innocence before reaching his full development of memory cells. When also considering how everyone in India speaks in their native tongue with English subtitles, an extra step authenticates the true story. However I must admit: the boy cast as Saroo, Sunny Pawar, acts precisely how any young actor would in his first role. Nobody cheers him on because of his talent, but because of his cuteness.
A kind Australian couple eventually adopts Saroo, with some English lessons included to help him with the transition. As investing as it all feels, the very next event is, “20 years later.” So did nothing interesting happen within twenty years? This sort of leap in time happens constantly throughout the picture, limiting the story possibilities and minimizing Saroo’s motives of returning to India. So proof exists in why Lion would prefer to tug on your heartstrings over structuring the story to deserve the countless awards it campaigned so hard for.
Speaking of awards, my complements go to the Academy Award nominated performances of Nicole Kidman (The Hours, Moulin Rouge!) and Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire). Both portrayals standout satisfactorily well, carrying the second half of the film to maintain the audiences’ tears. Although I ought to complain about Kidman’s distractingly obvious wig. Yes, I realize they needed to cast a talented actress, and yes, I understand she needs to look like the real-life counterpart, so why not cast someone whose natural hair looks like the real life counterpart? Or maybe dye Kidman’s hair? Oh, right. They needed an already nominated actress to guarantee a nomination, and she has to still look pretty in her natural silky blonde hair for those expensive interviews and campaigns.
Yet like any other Oscar-bait picture, the production crew still put in tremendous effort. Saroo’s growth into manhood blooms to life through various scenic shots meant to highlight memories of home, such as moths illuminated by the sun, or the infinite route of a railroad track. Then as things turn more personal and distanced from youth, the camera pulls in closer to the human face. The minds and hearts of everyone involved were in the right place, even if Lion turns out no different in quality than the summer released indie crowd-pleaser.
Clearly, Lion will fall out of the public’s memory after the 2017 Oscars ceremony. But the #LionHeart campaign it started will last much longer. It exists to raise donations to benefit the 80,000 lost children in India, and worldwide. I encourage you to offer them a small donation; even just a little can travel a long ways to make a difference.
Garth Davis’s movie works hard to raise awareness about the crisis of children losing their families. It always happens for different reasons, including separation in a crowd, wandering, or even kidnapping. Every parent wants to ensure their kids know as much as possible about what to do in a given circumstance they are separated from their family, but what differences should be considered when the child falls upon the autism spectrum?
First, some common causes of children with autism losing their families in busy public places:
- A fascination with something out of the ordinary
- The need to run to someplace quiet
- Something scares them
- They are running from a friend or relative who wants to give them a hug
- The increased likability of believing lies leads makes them susceptible to kidnappers
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #10: New Places Often Make Them Cry.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #22: Their Senses are Much More Sensitive.
With myself as a kid, I most likely got lost whenever I saw something of interest. I remember a time my family spent a day in Seattle when I was about seven. I saw a long fleet of stairs escalating up to infinity. Resistance was futile in going up the fleet of stairs to see just how far it went. But of course my dad saw me all the way at the top of the stairs, and yelled at me to come down. In case you were wondering, yes, I got in a lot of trouble. But it proves how anyone with autism could easily feel impulsively drawn to something amazing in appearance, leading to a frantic search from the parents.
The National Autism Association describes other reasons why little ones with ASD wind up lost. One of their main points being: “Children with autism typically wander or bolt from a safe setting toward something of interest, such as water, the park, or train tracks – or to flee from something, such as loud noises, commotion, or bright lights.” In other words, similar situations to myself at age seven. Further research by the association assesses: “More than one third of ASD children who wander/elope are never or rarely able to communicate their name, address, or phone number.”
Which leads into the next point I’d like to talk about—how to prepare for potential separations. Any typical child safety course might tell you to make sure your child can recite your address and phone number, but as stated by the NAA, many with ASD would struggle in doing so. I memorized my family’s phone number as a four year old, but not our home address.
I cannot overstate the valuable of finding creative ways to help your kid remember. You know how many commercials use catchy jingles to help you remember their phone number? (Empire Today, Pierre Money Mart for instance) You can do the same to help your kid remember. You also can teach your child specifically what to do in a scenario where they get lost. Teach them to approach a woman or a police officer who can help them, and state a name, phone number, and home address. Another option to keep your child from running away may be to put him on a leash. Although some consider it inhumane and demeaning to resort to chaining your kid to your waist, so this is probably best to use as a last resort.
Discussion about this issue could go on, and even if I had extra time to talk about it, I am unlikely to cover the unique situation between you and your son or daughter. So rather, here are basic rundowns to help you think of ways to protect your autistic child when out in public:
- By the time your child can start walking and speaking comprehensible sentences, you should be teaching them to memorize your phone number and home address. If they are walking but can’t yet speak, give them a card with your information on it.
- Teach your kids about “stranger danger” and where to call for help. There are pedophiles and crooks everywhere, and they look just like everybody else. You need to be the one to teach them all about the signs they have to be cautious of, and that they should not trust anybody they don’t know other than women and the police.
- Take some time to read through the National Autism Association’s guide to help parents of autistic children protect them from running away, wandering, or getting captured by strangers. But don’t let the research stop here. Keep looking for new ways to protect your child.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see reviewed, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Be Red-Y to Find a Missing Child with Autism. National Autism Association. Web. <http://nationalautismassociation.org/docs/BigRedSafetyToolkit-FR.pdf>.
bretthyde24. Pierre Money Mart Testimonial. Video. YouTube. 22 Dec 2008. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LbvFnW0NVE>.
Empire Today. Empire Carpet Empire Today Commercial End Tag. Video. YouTube. 3 May 2011. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwJQQux0TF0>.
Kirsch, Becky. Lion: How the Movie Stays True to The Real Story. PopSugar. 29 Jan 2017. Web. <http://www.popsugar.com/entertainment/Lion-Movie-True-Story-42384986>.
Lion (2016). History v. Hollywood. CTF Media. Web. <http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/lion/>.
Lion Movie. The Weinstein Company. Web. <http://lionmovie.com/>.
Zuckerman, Esther. Lion doesn’t quite make its true story roar. Digital image. A.V. Club. Onion Inc., 23 Nov 2016. Web. <http://www.avclub.com/review/lion-doesnt-quite-make-its-true-story-roar-246174>.