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Stars: Dev Patel, Sunny Pawar, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, Rooney Mara, Abhishek Bharate

Director: Garth Davis

The first 50 minutes of this true-story film prove to be, like their little star, quite a charmer. The sights, sounds and even smells of impoverished Indian life in the 1980 are vividly captured, as we follow the exploits of ragamuffin Saroo (Pawar) and his older brother Guddu (Bharate), who scrounge, scavenge and steal to keep their mother (and themselves) in a modicum of comfort in their rickety shack.

One night, Guddu slopes off on a mysterious errand at the railway station, reluctantly taking Saroo with him. Telling Saroo, who's about six, to stay on a bench, Guddu disappears into the darkness (his eventual fate casts an disturbing shadow over the film's happy ending) and Saroo, disobeying his brother, goes to sleep on an empty train, which ultimately takes off, landing the mite hundreds of miles away in Calcutta.

Here he's caught and thrown into an horrendous home for abandoned children.

Despite mispronouncing the name of his home village, preventing the authorities from finding it, Saroo lands on his little feet in a way, when he's adopted by a Tasmanian couple (Kidman, Wenham) who sweep him off to a new life.

So far, so absorbing, but in the second half the film seriously blows it, as tiny Saroo, now grown into steeple-tall Patel, throws up a college course and an American lover (Mara in a nothing role) in a seemingly endless search for his 'real' family.

Despite the excellence of Patel, the film thereafter develops into something of a slog, just going on, and on...slowly, with some clunky dialogue to boot, especially for the unfortunate Kidman and Wenham. A shame.

The title, by the way, is explained in the closing credits.

David Quinlan

Australia 2016. UK Distributor: Entertainment (Weinstein Co). Technicolor.
118 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 15 Jan 2017