Aussie director Garth Davis’s gruff and passionate debut feature has pounced upon the awards season like a wild beast. Garnering acclaim wherever it’s screened, Lion’s hard-hitting beauty, earnestness and poignancy has reduced audiences to tears.

Five-year-old Saroo Brierley (Sunny Pawar) is separated from his brother after boarding a cross-country train and finds himself lost on the streets in Calcutta, India. After several years of struggling to survive, Saroo ends up in an adoption centre and soon finds a new home in Tasmania.

Twenty years later, Saroo (now played by Dev Patel), is haunted by the fear of what his biological family felt when he went missing, and begins a Google Earth search to find out where he came from. But as the search slowly brings him closer to his lost family, it also strains the relationships he has built in Australia.

If the film came to a halt before its jump to the future, it would be a roaring win for Lion. Newcomer Pawar hits all the right notes and makes a huge impact that claws your heart to shreds. Post-jump, it’s Patel’s charm that keeps us engaged during the reduction in pace and long glances at computer screens.

There’s no doubt that Lion is a tearjerker, especially for parents, but you’ll feel like more time has been spent getting lost than found, resulting in a conclusion that feels premature and less emotional than it could have been. Consequently, this big cat ends with a cute little meow instead of a roar.

In cinemas: January 19, 2017star-3-half
Starring: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara
Directed by: Garth Davis