September 13, 2018 Lost Child (Movie Review)
Folklore and superstitions are created when people are ignorant to the cause of something and an explanation is needed. Those that hold onto these beliefs usually believe in some form of magic. Isolation and a need to explain the unknown fuels these practices. Set for release in select theaters on September 14, 2018 and on DVD/VOD on the 18th through Breaking Glass Pictures, the new film Lost Child weaves a tale using the most innocent of vehicles. The question is – are all lost children truly as harmless as they seem? In the grips of an old folklore, children can be the source of great danger.
Written and directed by the talented Ramaa Mosley (The Brass Teapot 2012, Tatterdemalion 2017), Lost Child follows an army veteran named Fern (Leven Rambin: The Hunger Games 2012, True Detective 2014) who is heading home for the first time in years. Her father has just died, and she is determined to reunite with her brother Billy (Taylor John Smith: Cruel Intentions 2016, You Get Me 2017). They live in a very small town in the Ozarks. It is overrun with mountain folk and drugs. It is not the safest place for a woman alone, even a soldier. The only people who seem to care about her is her deceased mother’s best friend, Florine (Toni Chritton Johnson: Greymen: A Contactee’s Tale 2018, Tatterdemalion 2017) and the bartender/social worker Mike (Jim Parrack: True Blood series, Battle Los Angeles 2011).
As she is searching the woods for her brother, she finds a little boy instead. He says his name is Cecil (Landon Edwards: Snow 2017, Tatterdemalion 2017) and though proper and polite he will not tell her anything else about himself citing various superstitions for the reason. She takes him home. With Mike’s insistence, keeps him until they can figure out who he is, so he will not go immediately in the foster care system as she and her brother had. Almost immediately, Fern begins to become very sick. Her hair is turning white and she cannot seem to catch her breath. Her unstable neighbor, Fig (Kip Duane Collins: Tatterdemalion 2017), and others in the town believe the child to be a tatterdemalion or demon from the woods. Tatterdemalions steal the health and life from the one that takes them from the woods so that they may stay young and live forever.
Fern is still wrestling with trying to reconcile with her brother. This sickness and her new ward are only stressing the soldier who obviously has PTSD. The superstitions and folklore some of the townspeople are whispering about Cecil begins to drown out all reason. Is he really a tatterdemalion? If he is not, then who is he? Where did he come from? Is Fern’s life in danger with this seemingly sweet child in her life? There is truth in stories is there not?
Folktales and superstitions are found throughout the world. The stories are both fascinating and sometimes terrifying. According to Florine, “Folklore come out of necessity.” When people cannot fully understand or explain a certain phenomena stories are created that seem to make sense or push home the cautionary tale that the community needs. They are passed down generations and some believe them whole heartedly and abide by them, while others enjoy them as just that-stories.
Sometimes, as in Lost Child, the people who hold these stories as facts are so passionate about them and the rituals that come with it that it makes a skeptic wonder if maybe, just maybe, they are true and the rest of us who do not believe are really the ignorant ones. Fig says it best, “I ain’t never seen Australia, but it don’t mean it ain’t there.” What is the real harm in believing in these stories and doing the rituals just in case they are real? What the film does exceptionally well is making the viewer question whether or not these tales are true or merely chilling fiction.
Edward’s Cecil invokes the parental instincts in the viewer as well as the nagging survival instinct to run. His performance is so believable it is difficult to imagine him being a well adjusted happy child outside of the film. He is polite and self-sufficient. He is an old wise soul in a young boy’s body. Any other casting would surely have tanked an otherwise brilliant film. Lost Child works partly because the viewer, like Fern, must feel a connection with Cecil. Cecil also needed to be a little off or different enough that the folklore fits the situation. The wealth of superstitions that are calmly and seriously delivered by Edwards gives the eerie feeling that yes, something is terribly not right with the situation.
Overall, Lost Child has a deep well of story development that most films simply do not possess. Take out Cecil and the folklore, Lost Child could still stand alone, and be just as powerful. The dynamic surrounding Fern and Billy alone could keep the viewer glued to the screen. Like life itself, Mosley, and everyone else involved in this film, have perfectly woven a story as complicated and complex as real life. Nothing is ever really as easy or simple as it seems on the surface. Relationships are complicated. Life is complicated. The strength of Lost Child resides in creating that perfect balance of entertainment and reality that stirs multiple emotions inside the viewer who even at the ending will long to see more.
A common defense mechanism of coping with something new or unknown is to either deny what is happening or come up with a plausible story to explain the occurrence. This is why folklore is still a powerful tool even in today’s modern society. Not everything has been explained, and that is terrifying. Add a lost child and a woman who is at a major confusing crossroads in her life and a compelling story is born. It is for these reasons CrypticRock gives Lost Child 4.5 out of 5 stars.