Sometimes, a movie crafted in two acts can lose its thread during the changeover. In "Lion," the drama only increases as a young man begins to realize his dark and tragic past, faced with a choice to forget it and embrace the future, or discover more about his history. All of this pivots on the reality of the story and the casting choice of Dev Patel.

About the movie

"Lion" is a drama based on the true story of Saroo Brierley. The directorial debut of Garth Davis, the film received a slow rollout release in the United States on November 25, 2016.

In the first half of the movie, a young Saroo finds himself locked by himself on a train, taking him far from his small town in India and towards dangerous and threatening Calcutta. After surviving in a myriad of ways, Saroo is adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, Saroo is beginning to realize the agony of his past and sets out to find the birth family he unintentionally abandoned so long ago.

Heartbreak of a "Lion"

This movie pivots on the heartbreak of the first act of the film. The story of a young Saroo simply gets more and more devastating at each step. He is forced to face homeliness, starvation, perversion, and so much more as such a young child. How the "Lion" survived any of that isn't quite fathomable.

Picking up on the drama of the second half of the movie, Dev Patel gives an amazing performance as Saroo. The "Slumdog Millionaire" star has come a long way, even if the cliche nature of his films hasn't changed much. He's full of depth and confusion, trying to straddle a line many adopted children do, albeit under slightly different circumstances.

His emotional journey keeps the second half of the film moving, even though it lacks the energy of the first act.

Nicole Kidman also gave a solid performance. As the adoptive mother of Saroo, she's full of pent-up angst as well, having to take care of two adopted children, one of whom struggles with self-abuse. There is one weird moment in the movie, however, when Kidman's character talks about a dream she had -- it speaks of some uncomfortable colonial history.

The missing element of "Lion" rested with Rooney Mara. The movie didn't need a love story, but because the trailers created a sense there would be one, it came as a surprise when Mara's love interest to Saroo was a marginal character at best. The trailers for the film shouldn't have gone in that direction if the film itself wasn't going to follow suit.

Still, the power of the movie remained strong. As Saroo began to deteriorate from his forgotten memories, the stakes of his journey only increased. Meanwhile, it became impossible to tell how the ending would play out. It seems Saroo's luckiest moment come from arbitrary luck, but it still led to a final chance to change his story.

There was another weird moment, however, when Saroo made a comment about his life being that of 'privilege' and being unable to live that lifestyle.

While the movie suggested things were better for him than most, it didn't necessarily feel like a social commentary was coming, rendering it a bit awkward in the sequencing of the film.

"Lion" is a movie benefiting from the speed of the first act, while plodding a bit when the drama moves from India to Australia, and from tangible experiences to the screen of a laptop. Its performances and story are still award-worthy nonetheless.

Rating: A-