Lost Solace


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Lost Solace
"Lost Solace deftly skewers the conventions of films which pit unfeeling men against one another, undermining the conventional masculine dynamic and moving the goalposts."

There's a particular feeling one gets as a critic when presented with a horror film about a psychopath. Oh. Again. But Lost Solace doesn't open like the others. There's no brutal misogyny, no revelling in gore. A hint, perhaps, at something unseen of that order; then a man in traffic, driving like a dick, laughing at those who complain. The reality of psychopathy in day to day life. The banality of it. And it's clear that this is something different.

Spence (Andrew Jenkins) lives in a luxuriously appointed apartment framed with due regard to the coveted spaces of American Psycho. He has carefully sculpted his hair and his body, controlling every aspect of his life, but he's bored. Something is wrong with his world and he doesn't know what. So he goes out clubbing, takes pills without knowing what they are. And then something goes wrong in a way he doesn't really understand at all.

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The endless films about how scary psychopaths can be to other people rarely touch upon the horror of what it's like to be a psychopath, let alone one whose condition is intermittent, who has dizzying feelings of guilt and remorse that can explode out of nowhere, without the tools to make sense of them. They also tend to overlook the subtler, uglier aspects of how psychopaths treat other people - the process of spotting a mark, the easy grooming, the inability to recognise personhood. Lost Solace addresses both. Following a panic attack, something for which he has no point of reference, Spence finds himself in hospital and discovers that the drug he took had gone astray from an experimental programme aimed at curing people like him. Experiencing new emotions predominantly as confusion and pain, he is desperate to make them go away, but drink and sedatives only do so much; he is changed, he is changing, and it pisses him off. Meanwhile, his seduction of an attractive young heiress is complicated when her differently troubled brother asks for his help in killing their father - but the father turns out to present a bigger challenge than expected.

All this plot could easily get in the way of the important parts of the film, and sometimes it does. At its core, Lost Solace is a love story, though the object of Spence's new feelings is complex and extends beyond the woman whom he sometimes finds himself connecting with. It's a difficult subject given that, too often, people fall in love with psychopaths thinking they can change, which is unlikely to happen in real life; but Lost Solace finds drama and tension in the problems that stem from the changing, in the instability that might be making Spence more dangerous, and in his feelings about himself. Also playing out as a thriller, it deftly skewers the conventions of films which pit unfeeling men against one another, undermining the conventional masculine dynamic and moving the goalposts. Ultimately, it goes in a direction viewers might not expect.

Anchoring all this is a superb performance from Jenkins, an actor not afraid to be unpleasant or weak or entirely blank. It's a role anybody would love, but what's important is that he knows when to downplay the necessary histrionics and show us something more raw. He's ably supported by Melissa Roxburgh, who brings depth to a character defined by her loveliness and naivete; and by Charlie Kerr as the brother trying to understand himself in relation to appalling role models. There's also a chilling turn from Michael Kopsa, who delivers the psychopath traditionalists might be looking for but, again, in a more realistic context than we are usually offered.

Though mental illness, learning disorders and similar have become fashionable topics in cinema in recent years and are increasingly treated sympathetically, it's rare for something as challenging as psychopathy to get a look in. Scheuerman's film is intelligent and humane, inviting us to empathise with Spence without ever making the mistake of presenting him as a nice person. It's a properly subversive piece of filmmaking and one hopes that its genre roots won't lead to it missing out on the wider audience it richly deserves.

Reviewed on: 23 Aug 2016
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Lost Solace packshot
Spence Cutler is a vicious psychopath who stalks his victims relentlessly without emotion, empathy or guilt. But one fateful encounter in a nightclub with a new designer drug is about to give him a dose of way too much reality.

Director: Chris Scheuerman

Writer: Andrew Jenkins, Chris Scheuerman

Starring: Andrew Jenkins, Melissa Roxburgh, Leah Gibson, Charlie Kerr, Michael Kopsa

Year: 2016

Runtime: 106 minutes

Country: US


Frightfest 2016

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