Writer/director Liam O Mochain’s Lost & Found is an honest labor of love. While filming over five years in Ireland, Mochain drew from stories he either experienced himself, knew others personally experienced, or knew as urban legends to create a dramedy about the goings-on in a small Irish town. There’s an enormous charm to Lost & Found, much of which comes not from the stories themselves, but from the performances which create them. Rather than feeling like dramatizations, each sequence serves to add as much color to the larger world as any person would as they engage with the people they know. In that regard, Mochain’s film is a simple, delightful, and often silly cinematic pleasure.
While the whole world doesn’t revolve around any one person, the opposite seems to be the case in an Irish town with Daniel (Mochain). Taking a second job at the local train station’s lost and found department, he meets Eddie, a man who spends his time riding the train, and Moya (Norma Sheahan), a ticket-taker. This new job allows him to spend some extra time with his mom Pauline (Mary McEvoy), who sells tickets, in between visits to his ailing grandmother (Barbara Adair). Of course, when he’s not working at the station, he helps his Uncle Paudge (Donncha Crowley) run a pub that is low on patrons. Though each job seems inconsequential at first and Daniel seems a bit unreliable, something sweet and beautiful emerges from the mediocrity as Lost & Found unfolds.
Based on the title and the initial location, there’s an immediate concern about how well Mochain can sustain interest if everything takes place at a train station. Using a single location is not unheard of. Kevin Smith did it with Clerks, Steven Knight with Locke, and Quentin Tarantino largely does it with The Hateful Eight. However, that’s not the kind of film Lost is and it’s better served because of it. Through the course of seven individual stories, Mochain slowly creates an entire world with people who become more than words on a page or actors. Considering the first sequence sets up the railway on which many characters are introduced, specifically Daniel, there’s an immediate notion that our main protagonist is neither reliable nor mature. He fails to follow procedure to the letter, hands out lost items to his friends without concern for their real ownership, and generally doesn’t seem to understand the significance of his post at the lost and found. Over the course of the stories, however, a change gradually rolls over Daniel, inserting an arc of growth and wisdom. Attentive audiences will notice the change in Daniel quickly, which is one massive drawback to the organization of the stories within Lost. The change stands out because Daniel is always connected to the stories though he’s not always the focus. Otherwise, the flow and structures of the stories are wonderfully executed, introducing new faces to go with old names or to carry forward stories only hinted at in conversation.
Credit to DP Fion Comerford and production designer David Wilson for capturing the look and feel of each story. None of the events Mochain puts on display are particularly grand or evocative, yet there is something in their authenticity which is striking. In the fifth story “The Will”, funeral home manager Mack (Daniel Costello) closes up for the day, stopping to blow out the candles surrounding the latest client. From this simple performance, Costello conveys an individual comfortable with his position, calmly moving from one candle to the next, gliding around the open casket the candles surround. As the candles are blown out one-by-one, Costello doesn’t disappear into darkness, as one might expect. Instead, his movements are made clear, one hand cradling the back of the flame while he blows each out, stopping only to gently touch the casket before he leaves the room. There’s no clear indication of who is in the casket at this point, so the audience can only fill that space for themselves. From the lighting, design, and staging, it’s clear that no matter who it is, the person deserves respect. This story is one of four which neatly balances the darker sides of life with a burgeoning light. In the story prior to “The Will,” Daniel goes on a trip for his grandmother. Titled “The Tent,” this story appears as the catalyst which begins Daniel’s potential maturity. While he never appears to be one to be bothered with empathy, there’s something in his grandmother’s story of leaving her Polish home as little girl during World War II which galvanizes him to action. Through a sequence with a great deal of sincerity, Mochain manages to find ways to insert humor softly, so as not to lose the humanity in the moment.
Even with all the thought Mochain put into the creation of Lost & Found, and no matter how much an audience may root for the film, it’s hard to deny a few blemishes which bring down the experience. As an ensemble piece, the film is a delightful treat. Where things don’t work as well is in the introduction and conclusion. At the start, characters and relationships are established, but they each are referenced or happen so quickly that it’s difficult to take hold of their meaning. It’s only later in the film when a familiar face or two appear that what happened at the start makes any kind of sense. All of those appearances become mini-cameos which help make a character more than someone new but keeps them largely hollow. Similarly, the conclusion is part of the final story “The Wedding” and the turn it takes is not out of place from the rest of the film, it just feels unearned. It certainly creates a stopper for Lost & Found, but the feeling it evokes is more of a “huh” than a “wow.” These certainly aren’t large enough issues to prevent audiences from enjoying the whole of Lost & Found, but they do bring down an otherwise charming film.
In select theaters March 29th (NY) and April 19th (LA).
On VOD and digital April 30th.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.