Here’s a delightful Lenten practice: see “Lion.” The true story on which the film is based is well known: a 5-year old separated from his family, lost in a part of India where he doesn’t speak the language. His enormous brown eyes and thick, disheveled hair speak volumes: if the lost sheep in the gospel were human, he’d look like this.
The endless possibilities for harm to the vulnerable innocent make the viewer cringe within, or as THE GUARDIAN review says, “The audience fills the frame with dangers of our own making.” But miraculously, he is well treated and adopted by a compassionate Tasmanian couple. The adoptive mother is played by Nicole Kidman, who has described “Lion” as “a love letter” to the two children she adopted herself in her 20s. Dev Patel plays the grown man who at age 25 embarks on a quest using Google Earth to find his first home. His adoptive mother blesses his search for his birth mother: “I can’t wait for her to see how beautiful you are.” Kidman says, “That, to me, is the most gorgeous line in the film.” (Though a close second must be her rationale for adoption: “it’s not a matter of ‘hard.’”)
The reunion scene is almost Biblical: the elderly mother can’t stop touching the son she searched for so long, and the whole village quickly becomes part of the explosive joy. Ah, we think, so this is how the Prodigal Mother might welcome back her son. Views of the actual people who lived this story appear at the end, along with the stinging statistic that 80,000 children a year go missing in India. This story gives specifics and a face to the tragedy. And how often do we get a lion for Lent?