Deserving of a lion’s share of both box office booty and award adulation, LION is a raw and roaring tale of loss and recovery across two continents and twenty five years.

Saroo is a five year old scamp living with his mother and older brother in a rural village of India. One day, he accompanies his brother in search of work in a town quite a journey from his village.

Travel tired, he is told to rest and not to move at the railway station. Searching for a comfortable cocoon in which to slumber, Saroo cradles inside a carriage. On wakening, he finds himself on a train destination unknown, and not knowing how long or how far he has travelled.

The traverse seems as big as the universe and he is delivered to a big city, time and distance unbeknown to the little tacker. Lost, bewildered, traumatised, he has a string of misadventures before finding himself in an orphanage and finally into the safe haven of adoptive parents.

The trans sub continental train ride seems infinitesimal compared to his final destination, the great Australian footnote state of Tasmania.

And so Saroo grows into adulthood under the adoring care of mother and father and saddled with another Indian orphan as surrogate sibling.

Torn between his devotion to his adoptive parents and a desire to reunite with his biological family, he decides to delve into a bit of detective work to position his present with his past.

The first great Australian film of the year, LION has a pride of talent before and behind the camera.Based on the memoir A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley, Luke Davies screenplay is a polished piece of dramatic writing, possibly his best script yet, honed from his previous craftsmanship of Candy, an adaptation of his own novel, and Life, inspired by the story of iconic photographer Denis Stock and his equally iconic subject, James Dean.

Direction, featuring a feature film debut by Garth Davis, who cut his teeth on the calling card of the mini series, Top of the Lake, is assiduously assured in both composition, texture and character building.

Greig Fraser’s photography is exquisite ranging from the hubbub of Howrah to the more harmonious Hobart.

Key cast are crucially kudos worthy with Dev Patel splendid as the adult Saroo and Nicole Kidman as his adoptive mum.

Add Sunny Pawar to the long list of actors who play the younger version of the hero as beautifully assured and scene stealing as their adult versions only to be forgotten at award time. Think Hugh O’Conor in My Left Foot and Noah Taylor in Shine.

More Slumdog Millionaire than The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, LION has appeal and heart as big as, well, a lion.