Simon Pegg and Juno Temple headline an indie movie that’s well worth digging out – here’s our review of Lost Transmissions.
Much like its lead characters, Lost Transmissions is uneven, sporadically brilliant but always worth keeping your eyes on. Those leads are Juno Temple as Hannah, an introvert musician who finds herself writing songs for leading music star Dana Lee (played by Alexandra Daddario). She then finds herself in the ecosystem of the other lead, Simon Pegg’s Theo Ross. Theo is a brilliant music producer, capable of working magic on a tune and turning it into something special. We learn that he’s also dependent on medication to help control his schizophrenia, and he’s not keen on taking it.
Katharine O’Brien’s screenplay initially suggests, then, that we’re getting a film about two talents joining forces, rising up, bringing out the best of each other and finding the metaphorical pot of gold. But it doesn’t take long for Lost Transmissions to take a different turn. As Theo resists his meds and he becomes in the grip of delusions, so Hannah finds herself as the one taking responsibility for him. There’s a backstory-and-a-half teased at when a group of friends stop at one point and discuss their own interventions in Theo’s life. It’s clear that this time it’s Hannah who has to fight for Theo. But this is a movie of jagged lines and rough edges, with no smooth narrative. It makes it a jarring, difficult film to watch at time, but O’Brien the (debut) feature director has her eye firmly on her characters. And I found myself really quite absorbed by it.
The performances that anchor it are high on the list of positives. Pegg has rarely been better, his Theo being a man I found myself oftentimes struggling to like, but equally struggling to completely give up on. I found myself subconsciously rooting for him, even when his behaviour veered heavily off track. Juno Temple, meanwhile, remains a real screen presence, an actor who feels like – in spite of a few high-profile projects – too well kept a secret for too long. Hannah’s story is given equal shrift by O’Brien, and there’s at least one moment in the film I where I all but applauded her performance on the spot.
Films that zero in on mental health challenges rarely pack out houses, but they do deserve seeking out. Lost Transmissions falls very much in that category. This is a challenging piece of work, shot with handheld intimacy and no little unease. In particular, it owes its strengths to three key talents: to Pegg, to Temple, and to a writer/director in Katharine O’Brien who has plenty to say already with her work. I look forward to discovering what she wants to discuss next.
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