Lion is director Garth Davis' first feature film, and brought him widespread attention. Adapted from a book called A Long Way Home, Lion sensitively explores the themes of identity, alienation, hardship, love, and perseverance. Before directing the film, Davis had directed a short and some episodes of the acclaimed miniseries Top of the Lake.
Filming took place in 2015, first in Calcutta, and then in Melbourne, Australia, and Tasmania. Davis first got involved with the project after reading an article about Saroo Brierley's experience. In an interview with Deadline, Davis said, "Because it’s a true story, I felt that I had to get as much real life exposure as possible. The first thing I did, and this is even before we had a writer, I went to India by myself. Actually at the time, I tied in with 60 Minutes, who were going over. They took the adopted mother to meet the birth mother. I was actually in the village during that moment, which is extraordinary because I got to meet everybody in a very deep emotional space, so that was really interesting, and I learned a lot from that. The way I work is I like to immerse myself in the world of the film and in the character’s lives, and then from that, I get a lot of ideas of how the film could be made, how it could be told. I suppose the thing that I absorbed was the way village people unite—this sense of togetherness and family and culture was very strong. The landscape was very strong. The textures and the colors, I thought, was a very big part of home for Saroo. I really absorbed that, and just watching the kids of today playing in the dam as Saroo did, I got a lot from that."
Reviews of the film were positive, and although Davis did not receive any award nominations for his work on the film, many critics praised his sensitivity as a filmmaker. In her review of the film for The AV Club, Esther Zuckerman wrote, "Davis deftly conveys the desolation of Saroo’s situation without wallowing in it, and Pawar gives a terrific performance...Davis, throughout this part of the film, plays with the idea of smallness. The opening finds the camera panning over a series of landscapes, finally revealing a tiny figure running. It’s a nod to the technology that will be a factor later in the movie, but also to the vastness of the world around Saroo."