Chris Scheuerman’s Lost Solace begins like a romance: two lovers, peaceful in a large, opulent living room, admire their surroundings and discuss moving in together. Everything appears idyllic until the woman wakes up the next day to find her partner gone, and her prized possessions gone with him.
This is all in a day’s work for Spence Cutler (Andrew Jenkins). Driving away from the scene with a satisfied smile, he’s presented here as a detached and coldly opportunistic criminal. However, the tide is about to turn: after taking the wrong drugs in a nightclub, he falls into a condition that causes him to feel genuine emotions for the first time, and in debilitatingly extreme fashion.
His struggle begins in unfortunate synchronicity with his getting in a little too deep in his latest con. He’s out to pull his old tricks on the well-intentioned Azaria (Melissa Roxburgh), but just as he passes the point of no return, her unstable brother Jory (Charlie Kerr) figures him out, and Spence finds himself embroiled in a plot to kill their father for inheritance. With his composure deserting him at precisely the wrong time, Lost Solace is mostly concerned with how Spence will keep it together as he becomes increasingly erratic.
The film is most successful in its first two acts, and that is largely owed to Scheuerman’s commitment to atmosphere. Lost Solace moves at an unusually slow pace given it’s story, but a commendable visual flair and a narrative steady hand mean things never feel sluggish. Performance-wise, the MVP here is Roxburgh, who inhabits the well-written and believable Azaria with real craft. Elsewhere, Charlie Kerr generally walks the line between instability and pantomime villainy pretty sure-footedly as Jory, and Watchmen‘s Michael Kopsa is suitably impactful as imposing patriarch Chuck.
A curious disconnect occurs in Lost Solace’s final third that is noticeable without necessarily derailing proceedings. As atmosphere gives way to action, there’s a spell in the third act that feels frantic in a way that jars a little uncomfortably with what’s come before. However, what feels like an unnatural gear-shift is offset by Jenkins upping his game as Spence continues to unravel. While his frosty demeanour in the film’s beginning occasionally feels a little inauthentic, as his character loses control, Jenkins seems to gain it, and his tightening grasp on the material becomes indispensable as the dramatic stakes are raised.
With the inclusion of an additional side-plot where a doctor extensively ponders Spence’s value as a medical test subject, the film occasionally feels a little overstuffed. However, an arresting, powerful finale means that Lost Solace doesn’t often fail to engage, and the moments afflicted with narrative clutter or occasional dramatic sterility feel mostly inconsequential in the shadow of its lofty ambitions. While it doesn’t hit all the notes it sets out to, it does leave you curious as to where Scheuerman is headed from here.