Shown in one of the Discovery Screens at this year’s Frightfest, Chris Scheuerman’s intriguing psychological thriller is ambiguous and invigorating. It begins well and has an interesting idea at its core which could have been explored more potently but – aside from all the artistic effects to convey a mental transformation – never quite reaches its peak.
It follows ambiguous sociopath Spence Cutler (a fantastic performance from Andrew Jenkins who also co-wrote the script) who goes around stealing from and manipulating people with no remorse, guilt or conscience. However, this all changes when one day he takes a new designer drug in a nightclub which puts in motion a series of events which leads to Spence beginning to feel more than he ever has. Along the way he becomes involved with the beautiful Azaria (Melissa Roxburgh) and her slightly odd brother Jory (Charlie Kerr) with whom he soon becomes involved in a plot with which sees him using them for money. Before long things begin spiralling out of control until he is forced to confront his own corrupt soul and decide if he can feel empathy after all.
The film is quite engaging at the start and for a while you can’t tell where it’s going. However towards the middle it becomes stagnated and never quite ups its pace from then on until the final act. The cast all give effective performances; Andrew Jenkins standing out as the lead role. He plays Spence without an ounce of repentance but still somehow shows a speck of humanity towards the end and plays the characters emotional transcendence very well. Melissa Roxburgh gives a strong performance as love interest Azaria; the fragile and innocent counterpart to Spence. Charlie Kerr gives a much more haunting performance as Azaria’s brother; dark and disturbed; he gets caught up with Spence’s lies. They all work well with the script but you can’t help but feel this could have gone just that little bit further.
It’s a very well shot film and has great potential from the start. There is a beautiful use of colour throughout which is there to portray Spence’s feelings as they begin to emerge and he starts to feel more ‘human’. The music score is also effective and works in sync with the story as the tension builds. Overall this is a beautifully made thriller with a solid script and charismatic performances; it’s just a shame that it doesn’t quite reach its full potential. Scheuerman is definitely a director to watch out for.
Im stood in the foyer of the cinema, somewhat still in a dazed shock from the brutal ending of White Coffin. My wife grabbed me excitedly by the arm – “Ive just seen the most beautiful film.” When I finally watched Lost Solace I realised she wasn’t kidding.
The storyline is a pretty simple one, a sociopath thief and swindler with zero feelings, emotions or remorse, gains emotion via drug use and becomes burdened by his decisions and actions. But the film managed to be so much more than what this storyline promises.
As my wife had pointed out the film from start to finish is truly beautiful, wonderful cinematography, a stunning score and some impressive turns from the actors. Granted the cinematographer attempts to give Christopher Nolan a run for his money when it comes to lens flairs, but it’s a minor gripe in a film so excellently shot. At points the film jumps from realism into symbolism and back, but manages to do so without jarring the viewer.
As someone who has a lot of issues with how horror films often highlight and depict mental illness, it was refreshing to see a film treat the subject with such a nuanced hand. Gone was the the wide headed brush painting the character as ‘mental’ or ‘disturbed’ and being done with it. In the place of these tiresome and unimagined 2 dimensional images, the lead characters are depicted with full and developed emotional mental states, each one different and demonstrating different characteristics. Even the differences between Chuck and Spence, who with lesser actors or direction would of been one and the same is a nuanced and subtle contrast.
The cast is brilliant with (for me) Michael Kopsa (Chuck) in a truly standout role, which when you consider the performances of lead Andrew Jenkins (Spence), and Charlie Kerr as the mentally disturbed sibling, standing out in Lost Solace was truly no mean feat. The most important components (script and actors) were a fully solid base on which they built this feature.
Lost Solace is a stunning and enthralling film which will most likely is a cult classic in waiting.
Imagine American Psycho where the titular hero unwittingly takes a new form of ecstasy at a club that prevented his dissociative psychosis and instead made him emote and relate to people for the first time in his life. Kind of. In writer/director’s Chris Scheuerman’s tale that is heavy on characterisation but light on discernible story there is the feeling that more is at play here than the set up suggests.
Scheuerman seems to have a deep empathy for the central character of Spence, played with real passion and great intensity by Andrew Jenkins who attacks with relish the role of the anti hero sociopath facing a drug induced early midlife crisis. Spence’s M.O. is to use his good looks and knowledge of what makes people tick, he is shown early on mimicking real emotions he has previously witnessed in a mirror despite he himself being a blank canvas, in order to ingratiate himself with women and remove from them anything of value.
After taking an experimental ecstacy drug in a club Spence begins to have visions, or are thy visions? And he begins a journey of panic attacks and self doubt and an attempt to reluctantly change his ways. The painting that he liberates in the introduction could be an allegory for the turmoil that he feels as his behaviour and actions appear to have a pronounced physical and psychological affect on him. All the time the painting which he keeps hidden in a treasure room with other items he has gained through his previous activities, seems to move and colours swirl, slowly the painting begins to invade more and more of Spence’s world.
Introduced into this psychotic individual in crisis scenario is an equally dysfunctional family unit. Spence sees rich girl Azaria as a target, her brother Jory has recently left a psychiatric unit and wants to hire Spence to kill his father, and the father seemingly loathes just about everyone, especially Spence. It really isn’t the best environment to find oneself in while attempting to navigate having a breakdown.
While all of this is effectively done it all ultimately feels like a brilliant set up and this kind of nihilist character could certainly work as a lead in a series on Netflix or Amazon, but this film feels like an extended first and beginnings of a middle act. Additionally, the continued messed up angst gets tiresome in the main character after a while, making you wish the director would get on with it The concentration on character and the leads mental breakdown issues is ultimately done at the expense of story. Equally the picture that features throughout gives from the beginning the idea that at any moment the story will take a hard left and have a darker backstory itself.
I found there a great deal to admire in Lost Solace, but not a lot to love, leaving me disappointed that the early promise didn’t transfer to the whole piece.
Lost Solace is currently on the International Festival Circuit