With Lionthe Weinstein Company has another potential crowd-pleaser that also could be an Oscar crowd-pleaser. The film, runner-up for the People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, has all the elements that make a hit but at its heart is an emotional powerhouse of a true story. It centers on 5-year-old Saroo from Calcutta, who becomes hopelessly lost during an outing with his older brother and begins a journey across continents to eventually find a new life in Australia with his adoptive parents, John and Sue Brierley. The boy has all sorts of obstacles before that happens, including a train trip to nowhere where he eventually is picked up by officials who can’t understand him and don’t know where he came from. One thing leads to another and, eventually, Australia.

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Cut to 25 years later: Saroo Brierley, now firmly Australian, becomes obsessed with finding his mother and brother, even though the tiny village in India is like locating a needle in a haystack. But with the help of a never-say-die attitude and Google Earth, he begins his quest — one that becomes more intense as the movie rolls on. As I say in my video review (click the link above to watch), it is an amazing tale of one boy, lost then found, then found again.

Dev Patel had a great passion for playing this role, and it shows. He’s excellent as the older Saroo, a young man with a mission. He is the perfect complement for Sunny Pawar, who plays the 5-year-old Saroo, and is an irreplaceable fixture in the film’s first half. A non-actor, Pawar is simply a screen natural and really provides the heart and soul of the film, as does Nicole Kidman as his adoptive mother in one of the star’s warmest and most effective turns in some time. David Wenham provides nice support, as does Rooney Mara, nicely underplaying the role of Saroo’s girlfriend.

Adapting the material from Saroo Brierley’s autobiography A Long Way Home, screenwriter Luke Davies navigates a tricky story that could have run out of steam once it hits Australia but somehow makes it all one piece. Garth Davis’ direction is masterful in bringing all the elements together. That it all actually happened gives Lion great power, and audiences will be hard-pressed to hold back the tears in this one, yet it never succumbs to cheap sentimentality. Producers are Iain Canning,Emile Sherman and Angie Fielder. The Weinstein Company has the film in limited release now with expansion throughout awards season.

Do you plan to see Lion? Let us know what you think.