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‘The Lost Girls’ (review)

Like her grandmother and her mother Jane before her, Wendy must escape Pan’s hold on her and the promise he wants her to keep.

As IMDB descriptions go, this is pretty misleading. While The Lost Girls is wrapped in four generations of Darling women, this isn’t really a Peter Pan story in the traditional sense.

Italian writer, director, producer Livia De Paolis is trying to tell us something in this film, but ultimately comes up short. I found myself asking over and over again, what is she trying to say?  I get the feeling she was trying to tell me I wasn’t smart enough to understand.

Livia DePaolis (Wendy) is Italian film royalty, coming from the only family that owned a film studio in Italy when she was growing up. She’s studied and collaborated with the great masters of Italian film and the American stage. This kind of pedigree can produce cinematic greatness, or art that falls dangerously in love with itself.

The good part of being global showbiz royalty is you get access to talent you might not normally get access to when making your second feature length film.

Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson, Iain Glen and soon to be household name, Ella-Rae Smith deliver fantastic performances over journeyman level writing. Smith shines especially with a monologue in the third act that was brilliant. It’s so brilliant in fact it seems out of place with the rest of the film.

Pan is played ably by Louis Partridge although at times he seemed lost. He and Iain Glen’s Hook are more psycho-sexual plot devices than they are characters.

Author Terry Real says that every relationship is an endless dance of harmony, disharmony and repair. I am reasonably sure this film is about the evolutionary harmonies of the Darling women.

Unfortunately I can’t find the truth DePaolis is trying to show us. Wendy is in disharmony with her mother and her daughter throughout the film and we phase in and out of reality, time and place so often I began to think the film was about generational mental illness. That might have been really interesting, but it was too subtle and never really dealt with.

With any Pan based story you expect special visuals and this is where The Lost Girls does not disappoint. There is magnificent cinematography from Anna Patarakina and the editing team of David Freeman and Miguel Rebagliato allow the audience to seamlessly transition generations, ages and places without losing the plot. One scene shot in a field of purple flowers is likely one of the ten most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

In the end, this is a beautifully shot, well crafted art house film that will likely spark many a pseudo-intellectual discussion. Film students will talk about high art being too out of reach of the masses of film fans and how hard it is these days to make a film like this if you don’t have a famous name like DePaolis.

I like films you can watch with the sound off, and The Lost Girls definitely qualifies. Unfortunately the script is too disjointed to get its point across and I spent too much time trying to figure out the message to enjoy what’s on the screen.

If you are a mother of daughters or daughter of a mother, I would guess you might get more out of it than I did.

2.5 out of 5 stars.

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Chris Curling, Meta Valentic,
Sam Tipper-Hale, Peter Touche, Livia De Paolis

Screenplay by Livia De Paolis
Based on The Lost Girls by Laurie Fox
Directed by Livia De Paolis
Starring  Livia De Paolis, Emily Carey, Amelia Minto, Ella-Rae Smith,
Ava Fillery, Joely Richardson, Tilly Marsan, Vanessa Redgrave,
Julian Ovenden, Parker Sawyers, Louis Partridge, Iain Glen

 

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