Bright Helm Films' Lost Angel Offers Audiences A Haunting Mystery

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There can be few traumas, if any, that exceed the loss of a loved one. Where once was a person, full of vibrancy and passion, hopes and dreams, there remains afterward a void framed only with deteriorating memories and the sober profundity of grief. When the loss comes unexpectedly or at a young age--taken too soon, we say--due to illness, accidents, overdoses or, most tragically, from self-inflicted means, the despair is bleakest of all, for the questions and doubts thereafter that linger, the what-ifs and what-might-have-beens, can and often do haunt some individuals forever.

That’s the heartbreaking emotional backdrop Left Films and Bright Helm Films’ eerie and oddly endearing new release, Lost Angel, lays out for its audience. In the small British community of Newpoint Island, late-night museum cleaner Lisa (Sascha Harmon), finds herself adrift in a maze of mourning following the isolated woodland suicide of her estranged sister, Melanie. After a visit to Melanie’s apartment and the discovery of both a hidden notebook and a disposable cell phone filled with untraceable numbers, Lisa learns her sibling may have fallen in with an unsavory criminal crowd prior to death. Stymied at every investigative turn by both wary reporters and seemingly disinterested police, Lisa bands together with Rich (Fintan Shevlin), the museum’s shy, quirkily handsome tour guide who accidentally lets slip that Melanie’s demise may have been foul play rather than self-harm, and who further rattles Lisa with the revelation that he himself has been dead for six months…

Even with its eccentric concept, Lost Angel could’ve easily been written off as a turgid supernatural melodrama about a woman teaming with a restless spirit in order to solve the riddle of her sister’s unfortunate passing, as trite and tepid as any given Ghost Whisperer rerun. Yet the film offers more than the sum of celluloid parts: it's entirely engrossing, evermore-suspenseful layers compound that initial hook, and each subsequent act extends the mounting tension until the movie’s ultimate outcome. While that eventual climax isn’t wholly unforeseen (Melanie’s final fate is hinted at with little subtlety from the opening frame forward), the novelty of the paranormal pairing between Lisa and Rich elevates what should’ve been a yawning, there’s-nothing-else-to-watch sleuthing exercise into an intriguing, thought-provoking and surprisingly tender experience. As the supportive Watson to Lisa’s dogged Holmes, Shevlin’s performance as Rich offers an ideal counterweight to Harmon’s single-minded seriousness; he’s at once funny and sad, with a smartly sharp lad-next-door vulnerability that cinches every scene. Small scriptural flourishes courtesy of writers Simon Drake (who also directs) and Louise Hume add their own accents: Rich’s divulgement that he can only travel to places he’s visited in life, and Lisa’s trips down memory lane to a childhood long lost buttress the movie’s rather generic mystery elements. Yet the heaviest burden in Lost Angel falls squarely on the shoulders of main star Harmon; she appears onscreen virtually the entire running time, exhibiting an exhaustive array of emotions and enduring one physically grueling set piece after another with a panache that earns viewers’ respect and, more difficultly, their empathy: one cares what happens to Lisa, whether she finds the answers that defy burial, and whether she survives to tell others about them.

Reflective, charming and sweetly romantic, Lost Angel avoids the urge to venture too far into the dark, which may turn off an audience accustomed to the simplified silver screen shock tactics so common in today’s cinema. For once, though, flaunting a needless edginess isn’t the point, nor for that matter is discovering the truth about Melanie’s untimely end. It’s about interconnectivity, the notion that every soul, no matter how outwardly insignificant they may appear, can and do play their part in the always-unfolding drama we call life, and that, even in death, none of us are ever truly alone.

I give Lost Angel a well-deserved 4 (out of 5) on my Fang Scale. Note to all involved: pairing Lisa and Rich together to solve additional crimes would make an EXCELLENT premise for a weekly detective television series spin-off. Just sayin’.

4.0 / 5.0