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'Truly special' movie Lion about powerful connections, say stars Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel

One of this season's buzzworthy movies is a tale that — setting aside its Hollywood posh and high-profile stars — is all the more incredible because it's true.

True-life tale was an audience favourite at Toronto film festival

In Lion, Dev Patel portrays Saroo Brierley, an Indian man who was lost as a small child, adopted by Australian parents and who, 25 years later, used Google Earth to find his way back home. (Mark Rogers/The Weinstein Company/Associated Press)

One of this season's buzzworthy movies is a tale that — setting aside its high-profile stars and Hollywood polish — is all the more incredible because it's true. 

Lion tells the story of an Australian man who embarks on a daunting and incredible journey to rediscover his roots in India based on scant but powerful childhood memories, after having been separated from his family at the age of five. It's based on A Long Way Home, the surprising 2014 memoir of Saroo Brierley.

Actors Dev Patel (left) and Sunny Pawar (centre) pose with Saroo Brierley in New York in November. Pawar and Patel portray Brierley as a child and as a young man, respectively, in Lion. (Marion Curtis/StarPix/Associated Press)

Starring Dev Patel in the lead role and Nicole Kidman (as his adopted mother, Sue), the drama marks the movie directorial debut of Garth Davis, whose past credits include the acclaimed TV crime series Top of the Lake.  

Patel and Kidman discuss their new film Lion, based on the true story of a man searching for his birth family after being separated as a child. 1:57

The project provided a valuable lesson in introspection for Patel, best known for starring in Oscar-winner Slumdog Millionaire and the surprise hits The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. 

"I'm a very quirky creature that is very fidgety and awkward," the 26-year-old British actor admitted in an interview with CBC News.

"Rarely do you get those moments when you're completely alone and you have nothing else to do but sit there and think."

The British actor recounts how preparing for Lion, based on a true story, meant learning to quiet his natural fidgeting and spend time just thinking. 0:58

"Every young actor would dream to play a role like this. And especially for me, a young Indian dude from London, this stuff doesn't come around everyday," Patel told the Canadian Press.

"It's truly special and I knew that when I read it, I just was allowed to explore a space and embody a character that is far, far away from the usual cliche that we get thrown. In every way it broke the mould for me."

Making its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, Lion quickly became an audience favourite and eventually was named runner-up for TIFF's People's Choice Award for favourite festival film of 2016. 

Lion opens in Toronto Friday and expands to a wider release on Dec. 21

With files from The Canadian Press