Mia and the White Lion Image

A young girl from London moves to Africa with her parents where she befriends a lion cub.

I can almost hear the resounding “uh-oh” emitted by animal lovers once they read the logline for Mia and the White Lion. Cinematic tales of human-animal bonding – from Old Yeller and Skip to Marley and Hachi – don’t tend to end well. Granted, those traumatic films deal with canine bonding, while director Gilles de Maistre’s family tale focuses on a girl’s friendship with a feline, a gorgeous white lion cub she calls Charlie. Whether his film ends on a similarly grave note, I’ll let you discover.

I will, however, state that while it contains some relatively graphic scenes, Mia and the White Lion is entirely suitable for older children – which does not excuse its overt politicizing (however laudable the message may be) and Lifetime-like dialogue. Thankfully, it’s redeemed by a charismatic, fearless central performance, as well as the sight of some of the most graceful creatures that roam this planet in increasingly diminishing numbers.

Mia has trouble fitting in and making friends, until one Christmas morning, a white lion cub is born…”

Rebellious troublemaker Mia (Daniah De Villiers) loves heavy metal and getting into fights. Having recently relocated from London, she lives with her mom Alice (Mélanie Laurent), dad John (Langley Kirkwood) and older brother Mick (Ryan Mac Lennan) on an African farm. The place is filled with hippos, ostriches, zebras, elephants, giraffes – and lions, whom John sells to “other breeders,” so he could make enough money to turn the place into a tourist attraction. Mia has trouble fitting in and making friends, until one Christmas morning, a white lion cub is born, “a million-to-one chance miracle.”

Rejecting Charlie at first, Mia’s soon won over by his cuteness, taking selfies and playing together. Alice and John grow concerned that Mia and Charlie are “getting too close.” “A wild animal’s a wild animal,” dad warns daughter about the perils of feline adolescence, “and you can never change that, no matter what you do.” When they try to take Charlie away, he refuses to eat and gets into fights, mirroring Mia’s behavior upon relocation – so they’re reunited, much to Mia’s joy.

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  1. Caroline Fox says:

    I was hoing to watch this movie however after reading your review I quickly changed my mind. I had no idea that this was occurring during the filming of this movie. It opened my eyes at this awful treatment of these beautiful animals. When will people understand these are wild animals. It’s really unforunate that’s it’s all about money and these animals have to suffer for these people’s greed and total disregard for these innocent animals. Thanks for your honest and informative review

  2. Where is the real Charlie at now

    • Debra Quaka says:

      Charlie and all the other lions from the film are living at the Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary. There they will live out the rest of their lives without fear of being trophy hunted. You can see videos of them if you go to Kevin Richardson’s YouTube channel (lion whisperer TV). Or you can travel to South Africa and see them in person, like I did.

  3. Artemis Grey says:

    This movie is not beautiful, nor does it aid conservation, or teach viewers anything about respecting lions or other wild animals. The lions you see here were bought from a captive lion breeding farm solely for the purpose of making this movie. Casting calls were held at Ukutula Lion Farm, which breeds hundreds of lion cubs each year, removes them from their mothers (just like Mia’s father removes Charlie from his and give him to Mia) and then allows tourists to play with them. Older lions are used for lion walking, and then sold to other breeding farms or into the canned hunting industry. Gilles de Maistre and Kevin Richardson knew this, and still used Ukutula for casting, and them purchased five lion cubs from them, directly participating in the industry their movie vilifies. In addition, the much admired relationship of the actress and lion is hugely problematic in real life as evidenced by the fact that one of Richardson’s other lions (not used in the film) escaped his control and fatally mauled a woman at his sanctuary while this movie was being filmed there. That woman’s death has been largely covered up, and not addressed, while the interaction between young woman and captive lion in Mia And The White Lion has been glorified and promoted.

    Buying lions from the captive breeding lion industry only supports that industry. Showcasing the interactions between captive lions and humans, only makes other humans want to interact with lions. de Maistre is already filming ANOTHER movie that involves captive wolves trained to perform with people. We’re supposed to be evolving above forcing animals to perform, but while circuses are maligned (rightfully) for using animals in performances, and have now been banned from doing so in many places, people like Richardson, who are buying and using lions for performances, are being applauded for doing so, and even worse, their use of the animals is being marketed and *good* for the species.

    Please, rethink supporting this movie.

    • Cyn says:

      Yea, the death was not covered up. In fact it’s one of the first things that pops up on google search. Second, the lion that attacked was not “under his control” as they’re not trained. He’s only developed a bond with them over time. Every lion he’s come in contact with was captive breed and doomed. He’s given them the best life they could have under these circumstances. Also, when on walks with the lions they are free to do what they want. That woman got out of the car, and was instructed not too. There were consequences to that. He also states infatically do not try this at home. And in my humble opinion, if you do, you deserve what you get. As for the people who pay to pet cubs and walk them and so on, awareness is key. The more people know what that Instagram pic actually cost and are rightfully fuckin shamed, the less their will be a demand for it. Breeding lions become worthless. Then you have to wonder, what happens to those captive bred lions once their owners deem them worthless? A bullet most likely. So people like Kevin aren’t gonna look so bad. One of his lions is 21 years old. He doesn’t just use them like a first wife, for youth and beauty. He makes a promise and sticks to it. Too take care of them the rest of their lives.

  4. Laney Preddy says:

    Great review! I saw this in Europe last week and loved it! You nailed it, Mr. Saveliev.

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