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Not recommended under 12; parental guidance to 15 due to scary and disturbing scenes and themes

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Lion
  • a review of Lion completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 23 January 2017.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 12 Not recommended due to scary and disturbing scenes and themes
Children 12 to 15 Parental guidance recommended due to scary and disturbing scenes and themes
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Lion
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length: 118 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Lion is based on the true story, A Long Way Home, written by Saroo Brierly about his life.

Saroo (Sunny Pawar) was born in the slums of India and lived with his mother (Priyanka Bose), older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) and younger sister Shekila (Khushi Solanki). Both boys have to help their mother by working with her, carrying stones and helping to feed the family in resourceful ways. Saroo’s mother also works at night and leaves the boys to look after their baby sister. However, Guddu also works at night, leaving the two younger ones alone. One fateful night, Saroo, aged five, begs his brother to let him come along. Against his better judgement Guddu relents but after a short train ride, Saroo falls asleep. Guddu leaves him to sleep on a bench on the platform. Saroo awakes to find himself alone in the dark and wanders onto a stationary train. He falls asleep again and wakes up to find that he is trapped on the train which is now moving fast. The train travels 1500 kilometres and when Saroo is finally able to escape he is stranded on the streets of Calcutta.

He faces many dangers there from unscrupulous men who try to capture him for nefarious reasons. He meets Noor (Tannishtha Chatterjee) who takes him home, only to introduce him to a creepy man who physically inspects him. Saroo runs away, and after living on the streets for two months, ends up in an overcrowded orphanage. There he is selected for adoption Tasmanian couple, Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John Brierly (David Wenham).

Saroo grows up in a loving family and goes on to higher education in Melbourne but his past haunts him continuously. He decides to try to find his birth mother and, with the use of Google Earth, eventually identifies his hometown.  He goes back to India to look for his birth mother.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Poverty; abandonment; separation from family; adoption

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Saroo sleeps on a cardboard box with other children in a subway. There they are ambushed and attacked by a group of men. Many of the children are caught and a girl screams for help but Saroo manages to escape.
  • Saroo runs onto the street and is hit by a bus but not badly hurt.
  • Saroo is carrying a watermelon home when he is hit by a motorbike. He has blood on his face but is not badly hurt. He is left with a scar on his forehead.
  • A boy is seen constantly banging his head on a wall and has to be physically restrained.
  • Mantosh (Keshav Jadhav), Saroo’s adopted brother, starts hitting himself with a knife then attacks Saroo. John Brierly has to restrain him.
  • Saroo and his girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara) fight verbally.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Many scenes would disturb children in this age group particularly the images of the poverty in India

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Saroo and Guddu climb onto a moving train to steal coal. Guddu screams when going through a tunnel and both boys jump off when found by a guard.
  • Saroo lives in a shack where all the family sleep together on the ground.
  • Saroo wakes up to find himself alone on a bench at a station and is very frightened. He runs around screaming for his brother Guddu. He falls asleep on a stationary train to wake up trapped and alone on a fast-moving train. He’s there for some days with no food and scavenges for scraps left on the train.
  • Saroo is lost amongst throngs of people on the streets of Calcutta. They speak a different language there and no one can understand him. He tries to catch a train back to his hometown but no one can understand the name of the town he comes from.
  • Saroo sleeps under a boardwalk in torrential rain. He goes fossicking in a rubbish dump.
  • A boy’s dead body is shown in a funeral procession.
  • The orphanage looks very frightening with many children behind bars calling out.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

  • Many of the above scenes would be disturbing for children in this age group.
  • Sue and John adopt another boy called Mantosh who is obviously a very disturbed child. He screams and thrashes out and has to be physically restrained. He causes a lot of problems for Sue and John throughout his life, turning out to be a morose, reclusive person.
  • Saroo meets Lucy at college. She tells him that her mother died from cancer.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes

Product placement

Google Earth

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • The man who Noor brings to her house lies on the bed next to Saroo and inspects him physically and says, “he’s just what they want”, implying that the man wants him for a child sex ring.
  • One of the young boys in the orphanage is taken out in the night by guards who tell the person to whom they give him to have him back by dawn.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • Saroo and Lucy are shown in bed several times and Saroo is seen naked from the waist up. They kiss passionately but nothing more is shown.


Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • drinking at various venues
  • Mantosh smokes.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • shit; arse; damn

In a nutshell

Lion is a true story based on the autobiographical book, A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierly. Telling of his accidental separation from his family, adoption and search for his birth mother, it is a highly emotional but beautifully portrayed story of courage and tenacity.

The scenes of poverty in India are quite distressing, and these scenes and the film’s themes make it more suitable viewing for teens and adults. It is therefore not recommended for children under 12, with parental guidance recommended for the 12 to 15 age group.

The main messages from this movie are the bonds between a mother and her child and the importance of a loving family.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children the issue of inter-country adoption and the importance of looking after those who are not as well off as others.