If you've only seen the trailer, you might think that you know exactly what sort of film Lion is.

The heartwarming story of a lost child trying to find his family again more than 20 years after he was left alone at a train station? Sounds like Oscar bait. Sounds like something you've probably seen before. But Lion is different. From the beginning of the film it doesn't take you long to realise that it's more ambitious than it seems, it has a greater depth to its character development, is gorgeously shot, and has an intriguing approach to structure.

The film follows the character of Saroo (played as a child by Sunny Pawar, and by Dev Patel as an adult -- both are outstanding performances) who is lost aboard a train when he's five-years-old. He ends up in Kolkata, stranded and miles away from his family. He's left to keep himself alive on the streets and is eventually adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). This takes him so far from home that it seems inevitable he'll never see the family he lost again. It's not until 25 years later that, with the help of Google Earth, Saroo begins to search for a place he can barely remember in earnest.

"The detail of his life is tremendous, and both Pawar and Patel deliver amazing performances in these roles."

It's a story that you might expect to be melodramatic and designed as a tearjerker, but there's so much more to Lion. It takes Saroo's plight seriously, and never plays a moment for easy emotion when it can explore it and take its time with the storytelling. This is a considered character study. What makes this really work is how it chooses to divide its narrative in an interesting way.

The simple option would be to tell it from the perspective of the adult Saroo, flashing back to his earlier hardship. But Lion decides to split the story in two. The entire first half puts you fully and effectively in Saroo's shoes as a five-year-old, anchored by Pawar's wonderful performance, and that there's not a single line of dialogue in English until over 50 minutes in.

Along with making it feel more like a foreign language film in the first half, this decision also pays off narratively because we know and have seen all of what Saroo went through as a child. When he talks about these experiences and people that he struggles to remember as a man in his twenties, we know them all too well because we've seen them minutes earlier and followed the character on this journey.

The detail of his life is tremendous, and both Pawar and Patel deliver amazing performances in these roles. The same can be said for Kidman and Wenham, as their characters and their relationship to Saroo makes for a powerful and moving look at the role of adoption in forming Saroo's identity and personality.

"Small moments are magnified through the eyes of a child, and that he encounters so many other lost children is something that shocks you and sticks with you as the film progresses."

I generally try to steer clear of the term "Oscar bait" because, nine times out of ten, it's just not that helpful when it comes to discussing films. But it's also hard to deny that there is a certain type of movie that feels entirely designed to win awards. These are usually fairly clichéd and familiar, with a suitably important or inspirational story. I'd argue that it's fair to call something heavy-handed Oscar bait, like The King's Speech for instance. That Lion's marketing makes it look like it fits an inspirational template, and that it's based on a true story, are reasons some might think it is Oscar bait. Even if it has high hopes for awards, though, it handles its story more interestingly than you might've predicted it would.

It's not perfect, by any means. If you consider Lion as two films, it's my strong feeling that the first of those two is the stronger. Following the young Saroo through the dangerous world in the streets of Kolkata is visceral and terrifying, and the film does an incredible job of making us see things through his perspective. Small moments are magnified through the eyes of a child, and that he encounters so many other lost children is something that shocks you and sticks with you as the film progresses.

The second part of the film is a bit more predictable, with more loose ends, but it also has a stunning and moving finale that is more than worth the wait. It's not trite or clichéd in the end, but as devastating as it is uplifting and hopeful.

"It's far less emotionally manipulative in the way it approaches its position as a real-life inspiring tale than so many other films that have come before it."

The film will grab your attention and hold it right from the start, though, and this is a character journey that truly deserves to be called remarkable. You'll know going in that it's going to pack an emotional punch, but you might be unprepared for the nuance and complexity with which the film handles everything. Lion is quite excellent in many different ways, and the wonderful actors and director Garth Davis have taken this incredible true story and really done it justice in the filmed retelling.

If you've got a heart, I can almost guarantee Lion will move you to tears. The important thing, though, is that it's far less emotionally manipulative in the way it approaches its position as a real-life inspiring tale than so many other films that have come before it. It's confident enough to take its time with everything it does, and it's committed to making us see the world from a point of view we may not have seen before.

You could argue that even with its unusual split structure the film follows a template, but it's still far more authentic and honest than so many films we'll see this awards season. If it does win anything, it'll be because it thoroughly deserves to.

You can read more by Simon Cocks on his blog.