'Lion' Explores The Decision To Adopt In A Way Not Often Seen On-Screen
Though there are a number of films that address the topic of adoption, not a lot of them explore the reasons why some parents choose to adopt. Yet the new movie Lion, in theaters now, dives deeply into the reasoning behind adoption and the effects it can have. Telling the true story of Saroo Bierley, Lion follows Saroo as a young boy in rural India who is separated from his brother at a train station, later traveling thousands of miles to Kolkata where he was eventually picked up by authorities, taken to an orphanage, and adopted by an Australian couple. As an adult, Saroo (played by Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire) is troubled by his past, holding onto endless guilt as a result of getting lost and going through an emotional, existential journey before deciding to try and find his birth mother back in India. It's a unique take on adoption, and one that's seen far too infrequently in movies.
Lion is incredibly emotional, and draws heart-wrenching performances from both Nicole Kidman, who plays Saroo's mom, and Patel while also telling a beautiful story of love, loss, and parenthood. But the movie also sends an incredible pro-adoption message that is especially important considering our current environmental situation. Towards the end of the film, there's an extremely emotional scene between Saroo and his adoptive mother, Sue, that touches on his adoption. Small spoilers ahead. In this scene, Sue reveals something major to Saroo that he was unaware of, and it changes the film entirely.
In a moment of emotional turmoil, as Saroo is struggling with the concept of being adopted and thinking of heading to India to find his birth mother, he says something along the lines of, "I know you guys couldn't have kids so..." But this assumption is quickly set straight by Sue, as while Saroo assumed that his parents were infertile, Sue and John simply wanted to do something good for the world by adopting. "We could have had kids," Sue tells him. "There are enough people in the world." She and John simply wanted to help a child in need find a loving family.
That Sue and John adopted a child in need because they wanted to and not because it was the only way they were going to have kids is a scenario that we don't often see in movies. According to Adoption Magazine, infertility is still the number one reason why people choose adoption, but people adopt for a number of reasons, including, as is the case for Sue and John, the desire to not add to the planet's growing population problem.
That Saroo jumped to the conclusion that his parents couldn't conceive a child themselves is a very common assumption. When adoption is shown on-screen, it's typically because parents have suffered through medical issues such as infertility like in Juno, or that it's due to a humorous case of happenstance, like in Despicable Me. Yet as Lion shows, there are many reasons why people adopt, and each instance is equally deserving of time on-screen. Lion's wonderful pro-adoption message might be based on a true story, but it would be wonderful if other films that touch on adoption would explore this very noble reason why a lot of parents choose that route.
Images: The Weinstein Company