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Dev Patel plays Saroo in the second half of the film Lion.

There's an old showbiz adage about never working with children or animals, because chances are you'll be upstaged. And though the film is called Lion, it's an untrained kid actor and not a king of the jungle who steals the show here. He is Sunny Pawar, the charismatic tenderfoot who will capture hearts as five-year-old Saroo, a boy separated from his family in rural India who ends up as an adoptee of a loving, well-off Tasmanian couple (played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). The setup to this real-life story takes up a good half of the film, which unfortunately leaves little time for the fast-forwarded character of the twentysomething Saroo (played with nuance by Slumdog Millionaire's talented Dev Patel) to be established firmly. First-time Australian director Garth Davis offers sweeping cinematic shots, with a soundtrack that is pleasingly epic, but the second act is a bit skimpy, script-wise. The hero of the story is the Internet-based global-imaging program that facilitated adult Saroo's emotional journey home. When he arrives there, the villagers react as if he were brought by a higher power. And he was – but it was Google Earth, not a god, who delivered the prodigal son.