A girl is on a video call with another boy. He offers her his sandwich through the screen but she tells him no thank you. As they talk, a man calls the girl, Mia, to hurry down or she’ll be late for school. Mia packs up her things and leaves the room. She climbs down the roof, earning reproach from her mother, Alice. She climbs into a pickup truck and as it zooms off, an old woman, Jodie, hurries out of a room with a lunch box and bananas. She tries to call after them but they’re already gone. The truck drives through a narrow road with lions on either side of the road. The kids turn up the volume of the music as their father, John Owen drives on. They get to a junction where a long bus is and get off the truck. John bids the kids goodbye and leaves with the pet cat.
At a construction site, John tells the workers to get the restaurant ready very soon. Alice shows him some designs, and then they talk about the construction process. She tells him there’s a call from school concerning Mia and he assures her that Mia will be able to cope. John talks to Mia about fighting in school and the kid says she doesn’t want to live in Africa. She maintains that London is her home even when her dad says she should count herself lucky to live amongst plenty. It is night and Mia’s younger brother, Mick, is having a nightmare. Their mother reads him a story about the white lion, and Mia listens from behind the door.
In the next scene, it is already Christmas. While the kids unwrap their gifts, John shows up with white cub. Everyone, except Mia, is happy to see the cub. She walks away from the table while they play with the white cub. Mia is happy to have a video call with her friend but he hangs up and promises to call later. While she’s sad, the white lion crawls on her laptop and she smoothens its hair. Mick asks if she wants to give the cub its bottle but she pushes it away. With time, Mia and the cub grow closer together. John is worried that she’s getting too close to the cub, now named Charlie, but Alice assures him that it’s okay as long as Mia is happy. Mia follows her father to feed the adult lions and begs him not to sell Charlie.
John reminds her that he’s not a cub and he’s not different from other lions. Mia insists but John says Charlie is a wild animal that would want to kill her one day. That it doesn’t matter if she’s Mia who plays with him and takes care of him. He shows her around the farm and reminds her that this is her home. One day, while Kevin’s taking Charlie out of the house, the beast scratches his hands and Mia tries to defend him but John will have none of that. Charlie gets locked behind bars with the other lions. This incident makes Mia unable to concentrate in school. Charlie doesn’t defend himself from the other lions and has refused to wash himself ever since Mia left for school. He also doesn’t let the others feed him. When Mia can no longer bear it, she sneaks out of school and boards a truck home.
Alice gets a call that Mia’s been missing from school and rushes out to look for her but Kevin stops her and shows her where Mia is feeding Charlie. Mia is upset that no one looked after Charlie. She asks the lions if they would eat someone they love, saying she cannot imagine her life without Charlie. She asks Charlie if he’d forget who she is and try to harm her in the future. While she’s cleaning the windows, Jodie sees Mia playing with Charlie and says she’s sick in the head. Mick says Mia is actually divine, like an enchantress. John scolds Mia for bringing Charlie into the house, and says he’s too big to be indoors. Some kids come for an excursion to see Charlie and he gets violent with one of them. Mia runs out and says it’s because there are too many people and she’s angry that her dad only cares about business.
John’s taking the family out for dinner. Mia locks Charlie in the barriers but the lock comes loose as soon as Charlie tugs on it. When they return, they find Charlie’s cafe unlocked. Mia offers to help, but John sends her in saying that Charlie is worth a fortune that he cannot afford to lose. Against her father’s wish, Mia goes out to look for Charlie and Mick follows her. They find Charlie before their dad does and they find a water mongoose that it saved. Several days later, Mick is watching Mia play with Charlie. When Mia leads Charlie into the pen, she encourages Mick to come play with Charlie. Mick comes closer but Alice sees them from inside. She comes running and yells for Mia to keep the beast away from Mick. Charlie is startled by the noise so he acts up and pushes Mick down.
After a doctor sees Mick, Alice forbids Mia from going into the pen to see Charlie. John reiterates that that’s Mia’s last chance. He says it is also the only option she gets if she wants them to keep Charlie. Mia now has to watch Charlie through the barriers. Several years later, Mia is all grown up. She’s going through old videos when Alice’s car pulls up by the house. Mick, who’s grown his hair, steps out of the car and avoids Mia. They’re just coming from the doctors and things don’t seem to be better. Mia tries to assure Mick that everything will be fine. She takes him to see Charlie and she steps into the cage. She says she’s sure Mick will be free when Charlie is free. Mick starts recording the moment with Charlie on a phone. Mia says she’s come to see Charlie everyday since he’s been locked up.
One evening, Mia and Mick are laughing with Jodie when John comes in and tries to take a picture of the moment. However, he sees the video Mick recorded and swears he’ll sell Charlie at first light. That night, Mia sneaks out to find Charlie and stays with him until morning. She sneaks into the top of John’s truck while he’s transporting a lion to a zoo. However, Mia discovers that John isn’t really selling the animals to a zoo but to hunters. She tells this to Mick. He gives her his life savings and Mia packs up a bag she’ll need for the journey. She plans to leave with Charlie to another location.
Jodie sees Mia on her way out but she doesn’t stop her. Mia sets Charlie and all the other animals free. When John and the others wake up the next day, they see that they’re surrounded by lions. John calls Kevin to take care of it while he goes after Mia. Mick texts Mia to give her a heads up. Mia sees John’s truck pull up in their location. When he’s distracted, she snatches his gun and separates him from his truck with it. She tells him that she knows what he does with the lions. John says she won’t understand. He tells her it’s the way South Africa works but she insists that he can change the world. He tries to take a step forward and Mia fires at him. John is shocked but he doesn’t say a word.
The shot knocks him out and Mia leaves with Charlie. She calls Mick to come for John. Mia runs out of gas so she makes a stop at the gas station. While she’s buying some snacks at a store, news about her comes on TV so she hurries out. Mick calls her to know where she is and advises her to get off the highway since the police have set up roadblocks to catch her. She makes a U turn on the road. Mia is driving through a dirt road when she starts dozing off. She wakes up in time before there’s an accident. She goes berserk on Charlie for doing nothing at all. She tells him to kill her so that everything would come to an end.
John’s brother shows up at the farm demanding his lion — Charlie. Apparently, he made a
deposit for Charlie but John insists that the deal’s off. John, Alice and Mick get in the car to go find Mia. Charlie has also been declared Shoot-on-sight. This means that anyone could kill Charlie. When Mia gets to the place she’s been traveling to, it doesn’t look like what is in the book. The space has been transformed for a Chinese restaurant. Mia checks the book and discovers that it was published in 2009. More roadblocks are being installed so Mia let’s Charlie out of the truck and walks through the China mall. They make it to an open ground and Charlie goes after a goose.
Alice insists that there’s something John isn’t telling her about why Mia ran away. Two men reach the grounds Mia and Charlie have just worked on and one of them says the land is his. One of them is John’s brother who claims Charlie is his. The next morning, Charlie returns to Mia and finds her sleeping on a tree. They walk together and get ambushed by the two men from earlier. Mia tells Charlie to run while she faces the men, but he comes back when he sees her having a hard time he comes back to help her. He pounces on John’s brother while the other man tries to shoot at him. The gun fails so the man runs into his truck. Charlie comes for his next but Mia stops him and they walk off together. John hears his brother’s screams and hurries to the place.
He yanks him by the collar and warns him not to show up before him again. John says he doesn’t care if his brother seizes his farms, he just doesn’t want to see him again. From a distance, Mia watches John call for her repeatedly but she doesn’t answer. Alice demands to know what just happened with the men but John avoids the question. Kevin tells John that he should say what it is but John tells him to stay out of it. This upsets Alice more so she yells at him. John finally tells her that Mia saw him selling a lion to his brother. Alice gets upset, saying that John promised never to do business with him. John said he’s done his best to keep his promise but South Africa is just the way it is. Alice starts hitting at John but Mick stops her.
He tells them where Mia is taking Charlie to and who she’s taking him to. He promises that Charlie will keep her safe until they get there. John and the rest are surprised to hear this.
They get the police involved and Alice leaves John’s car to ride with the police. She tells Mick all about the past, and how he became the way he was — having constant panic attacks and nightmares. She tells him that was the reason they left for London and how she forgave John and gave Africa a second chance. Meanwhile, Charlie walks ahead of Mia even when she wants them to stick together. Mia and Charlie get to Timbvata Shangaan and Mia is overjoyed. John and the police show up soon after while Mia is convincing Charlie to enter the village. The police prepare to shoot but Mia begs her dad to save Charlie. When it seems like no one’s listening, John walks side by side with Charlie until he is safe in the village.