Lost Transmissions was written and directed by Katharine O’Brien, cowriter of The Automatic Hate, which played the festival circuit in 2015. I was astounded to find out that Lost Transmissions is Katharine O’Brien’s feature directorial debut because the film has the maturity, depth, and sophistication that I’d associate with a veteran director. The script avoids all the easy cliches and grapples with difficult subject matter head-on, stopping short of providing easy answers. Theo’s problems can’t just be solved by strength of character. He has a serious medical condition.
One reason the film seems so real and so personal is that it is. It is actually based on a true story. Katharine O’Brien also has had family members with schizophrenia. She knows this world and knows the compassion, empathy, and exasperation that can go with it. In any film, the actors are taking cues from the director, and the director has wide latitude to shape the tone in the edit. I feel like Simon Pegg, and Juno Temple hit the jackpot with a director who could help them deliver the best work they’ve done.
“…scenes between Juno Temple and Simon Pegg that are pure magic…”
The direction is just as assured as the writing. O’Brien uses odd camera angles, lighting, and music to keep each shot interesting, but also informative of character. Sometimes the choices are bold, but they always work. There are scenes between Juno Temple and Simon Pegg that are pure magic — the kind that will show up in each actor’s highlight reel — and the way they are shot elevates them as much as the performances. Sometimes there’s one long, continuous take, panning back and forth as they play out a scene. The lack of cutting provides the intimacy that makes the scene work, but it also makes it seem like a play in that you feel like anything can go wrong. And yet, because of the panning, we’re aware that this is a movie and are excited by the fact that this bold choice is working. Only the best directors can pull off a shot that leaves you dazzled by the direction while having it enhance the scene instead of stealing attention from it.
You might see Lost Transmissions just for Simon Pegg, but you’ll come away with a deeper sense of what schizophrenia is. You just might become more compassionate about people whose mental illness keeps them on the streets. And you’ll get to see a great debut feature whose nuance will keep you thinking about it for days.
"…Simon Pegg’s best role to date..."