'Lost Child': Film Review

Stronger on atmospherics than drama.
9/14/2018

A war veteran returns to her Ozarks hometown and discovers a mysterious young boy in the woods in Ramaa Mosley's supernatural-tinged drama.

A moody Southern Gothic thriller that flirts with supernatural themes, Lost Child never becomes as affecting or suspenseful as it should be. You can certainly admire the restraint of Ramaa Mosley's drama about a military veteran who returns to her Ozarks hometown and finds a mysterious young boy in the woods. But the film teases its provocative ideas without fully exploring them, resulting in a strangely enervating experience.

Leven Rambin (True Detective, The Hunger Games) delivers a strong performance in the central role of Fern, who left town 15 years earlier, abandoning her younger brother Billy in the process. Now she's back after serving a stint in the Army that has clearly left her psychologically affected. "I don't believe in guns," she announces early on, despite her obvious experience with them.

Fern moves into the modest house once occupied by her late father, reconnecting with a neighbor (Toni Chritton Johnson) who knew her family well. She has a one-night stand with a local bartender, Mike (Jim Parrack), who is clearly interested in seeing her again. She adopts a dog from the local pound for "protection." And she inquires at the local jail about her brother's whereabouts. The police officer in charge looks up his extensive petty criminal record. "Not here now," he informs her, adding, "He'll be back before long."

When her dog runs off into the nearby woods, Fern follows him and encounters a shabbily dressed and strangely polite young boy (Landon Edwards) who informs her that his name is Cecil. He has no explanation about his background or how he wound up in the woods alone, so Fern takes him home with her and contacts the authorities. They send a social worker, who turns out to be Mike. He urges her to take care of the boy until his relatives can be found.

Cecil turns out to be remarkably resourceful, making dinner for Fern from two small birds he's killed. That's not the only strange thing about him. When Mike takes a picture of him, the photograph mysteriously disappears from his phone. Fern finds herself becoming ill, her hair turning white and falling out. She eventually becomes aware of a local legend involving a "Tatterdemalion" an evil, life-draining spirit that comes in the form of a child. She also crosses paths with her brother (Taylor John Smith) who accosts her, beats her up and tells her that he wants nothing to do with her.

The film's screenplay, written by Mosely and Tim Macy (who previously collaborated on the equally quirky The Brass Teapot), flirts with supernatural elements but in an allusive, lackadaisical manner that produces no chills. Nor do the sociological themes have much impact, from Fern's troubled youth to her obvious PTSD to the resolution of the boy's mystery. Throughout the proceedings there are hints of the film that might have been, but every time it seems on the verge of being arresting, it pulls back, as if from fear of offending.  

There is no fault to be found with the performers; besides Rambin's fine, intense work, Parrack delivers an appealing, low-key turn as the supportive Mike and Edwards, making his screen debut, reveals himself to be a promisingly natural child actor. But it's not enough to make Lost Child more than a mildly intriguing curiosity.

Production companies: Green Hummingbird Entertainment, Laundry Films, Variety Pictures
Distributor: Breaking Glass Pictures
Cast: Leven Rambin, Jim Parrack, Taylor John Smith, Landon Edwards, Toni Chritton Johnson
Director: Ramaa Mosley
Screenwriters: Tim Macy, Ramaa Mosley
Producers: Cameron Gray, Sarah E. Johnson, Tim Macy, Ramaa Mosley, Gina Resnick
Director of photography: Darin Moran
Production designer: Cameron Gray
Editors: Phillip J. Bartel, Chris Maxwell
Composer: David Baron, Chris Maxwel
Casting: Emily Schweber

96 minutes