This mesmerizing examination of the concepts of home, family and identity is all the more powerful for being a true story.

In 1990, five-year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar, absolutely spot-on) becomes separated from his brother and finds himself lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He doesn’t know where he is and can’t speak Bengalese.

But he gets lucky and is adopted by an Australian couple. He’s swept off to Down Under and you’re swept off to a completely new movie, with Dev Patel playing the kid 25 years later, using Google Earth to try to locate his mom.

This jarring change in tone is the film’s main problem, but though the second half is weaker, the storytelling remains solid.

Patel, maturing nicely from Slumdog Millionaire and those Marigold Hotel romps, bagged an Oscar nomination for this committed portrayal. And Nicole Kidman gets kudos (plus an Oscar nom) for her terrific performance in what I think is referred to as an “unglamorous” role. Best thing she’s done in years. An underused Rooney Mara plays Dev’s Aussie girlfriend.

Australian director Garth Davis’s first feature film was nominated for six Oscars in all, including Best Picture.

A Dickensian tale of family and identityThe final ten minutes is a virtual orgy of emotional button-pushing. This is something I usually disdain, but I got a bit misty all the same, so they must have pushed a few of mine. Let’s just say it will appeal to anyone who ever had a mother. Stay for the closing credits. P.S. “Saroo” means “Lion.” (118 min)