'Lost Colony': Film Review

Courtesy of Lost Colony Film
An accomplished low-budget indie.

This family drama set in coastal North Carolina premiered at the James River Film Festival.

“This book should be made into a movie” is often said, but “this movie ought to be written as a book” is a rarer statement. It applies to Lost Colony, an indie that roils with inner conflicts and percolates with a rich sense of place. Dramatically, it embarks against the current of traditional dramatic structure; the film's narrative thrust resembles a flat-line rather than a traditional arc. Accordingly, it's likely to lose casual viewers who might view it as cinema verite with the dull parts of everyday life given disproportionate attention. At its best, however, this low-budget indie simmers with the inner frustrations and desperate hopes of its characters.

It's a tricky balance, and overall filmmaker Christopher Holmes has aptly distilled an organic drama from the beautiful Outer Banks of North Carolina. The title refers to the first European settlement in 1587 in what is now the United States. Most school kids know the general history of Roanoke Island and Sir Walter Raleigh and the murky disappearance of the settlers, their grand hopes to thrive in the new world mysteriously ended. Today, the area thrives with dramatic re-enactments and draws on its history for tourism. An annual play depicting the early settlement is a favorite; one year, a young Andy Griffith played Sir Walter Raleigh.

Lost Colony focuses on the present-day, year-round inhabitants, the service class that waits on the wealthy second-home owners who flock there in the summer season. Holmes' depiction is deliberate, centering on a young man, Loren (Joshua Brady). Loren aspires to an “indoor” job, but he's gotten his girlfriend (Sam Buchanan) pregnant. She now resents him because she gave up a track scholarship for unexpected motherhood. Loren's own neurotic mother is played by Stephanie Renee Morgan, whose performance is the most striking; she is always on the verge of meltdown but never completely crashes. Phillip Ward's wily portrayal of Loren's buddy and father-figure is the perfect mix of good-ol'-boy hell-raising and down-home wisdom. Through it all, Loren ruminates about his father, a man who was swallowed up by the sea; the mystery of his disappearance mirrors the mystery of the “Lost Colony” itself. 

The film is particularly evocative in its visuals and sounds; cinematographer Christopher Schneider smartly counterpoints the soothing sites of the sea and land with the commonplace harshness of the character's lives. Credit also goes to to production designer Meredith Hannah for the striking contrasts of the character's puny acquisitions with the grandeur of the setting. Jeff Seelye's musical score ebbs and crashes with a weary same-song wail, again perfectly fitting the characters' predicaments.

Cast: Joshua Brady, Sam Buchanan, Stephanie Renee Morgan, Phillip Ward, Bryan Marshall, Wayne Crawford
Director-screenwriter: Christopher Holmes
Producers: Christopher Holmes, Aaron Schnobrich, Adam Tate
Director of photography: Christopher Schneider
Editors: Christopher Holmes, Chris Iversen, Ian Johnson
Production designer: Meredith Hannah
Music: Jeff Seelye

Not rated, 84 minutes