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Echoing the themes of many a past road trip drama featuring a criminal adult and a not-so-innocent child, Trey Nelson’s film can’t help but evoke a feeling of déjà vu. But strong performances by Josh Duhamel and young Josh Wiggins (Max), plus haunting visuals of the barren Texas setting, provide some compensation for the narrative contrivances of Lost in the Sun.
Opening with a scene depicting a tense encounter before flashing back to a week earlier, the story concerns teenage Louis (Wiggins), newly orphaned after the death of his mother, and “family friend” John (Duhamel), who shows up at the funeral and offers to drive Josh to the home of his grandmother, his only living relative. Although more than a little suspicious of John’s motives, Louis, faced with the prospect of an interminable bus ride, reluctantly agrees.
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At first the boy revels in the attention of his adult companion, who lets him drive and teaches him how to shoot a gun. But it soon turns out that Louis had good reason to be wary, as Josh makes him, at first, an unwitting, and later an accepting accomplice and getaway driver in a string of petty robberies.
The basic storyline — reminiscent of such films as Paper Moon and A Perfect World — fails to achieve the necessary dramatic tension, with the true nature of the relationship between the central characters not exactly hard to guess. Such subplots as the revelation of John’s crippling debt to a gangster and the pair’s brief encounter with a sexy mom (Lynn Collins) and her teenage daughter (Emma Fuhrmann) feel similarly predictable. And an anguished confessional monologue delivered by John toward the end of the proceedings is wholly unconvincing.
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But the film still works to a degree, thanks to the incisive characterizations that make the growing bond between John and Louis consistently engrossing; the boy’s initially horrified and then slightly defiant reactions to his chaperone’s criminal activities provide a measure of dramatic tension. Duhamel, playing a meatier role than usual, and Wiggins, displaying an unforced naturalism, play off each other beautifully, sometimes managing to make Lost in the Sun feel a little less lost.
Production: Floren Shieh Productions
Cast: Josh Duhamel, Josh Wiggins, Lynn Collins, Emma Furhmann
Director/screenwriter: Trey Nelson
Producers: Clay Pecorin, Aimee Shieh, Clay Floren
Executive producer: Russell Geyser
Director of photography: Robert Barocci
Production designer: Michael Bricker
Editor: Michael Choi
Costume designer: Steven Chudej
Composer: Daniel Hart
Casting: Kerry Barden, Karmen Leech, Paul Schnee, John Williams
Not rated, 96 min.
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