May 24, 2010
The Lost Coast
Reviewer: James van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ***½
Modesty can be quite a virtue where independent film is concerned. You'd think, by their very nature, most indies could not help but be modest, considering their highly limited budgets and the fledgling state of their often first-time filmmakers. Even so, movies that bite off more than can be chewed and pack in everything on a filmmaker's mind pop up with alarming regularity in the independent field. All of which makes The Lost Coast, a film written and directed by Gabriel Fleming which made its DVD debut a few weeks back, something of a quiet, pleasant surprise.
Fleming, whose second full-length film this is, appears to know exactly what he wants to do and does it very well. His 75-minute movie tells -- via voice-over, combined with an email missive from a boyfriend to his girl, wrapped around some you-are-there, up-close-and-personal cinematography of the actual events -- what happened during the previous night's Halloween get-together between old friends. Included in the quartet are three guys, all pals from high school and a girl (Lily) whom one of the guys (Mark) now lives with. Two of the fellows (Mark and Caleb) are gay, one (Jasper, who narrates via that email/voice-over) is presumably straight, though it's clear from the outset that something happened back in those school days between Mark and Jasper. The word "fraught" came to mind here, as does the idea of the closet, and the struggle over staying in or coming out. At the crux of the issue here: just how much and what kind of homosexual activity can one indulge in and still remain "straight"? Does all this indicate a tendency toward the preachy? No. The situations and dialog in Lost Coast are always believable, with performances to match, so none of this seems heavy-handed.
The Lost Coast contains many small and intimate moments but few "big scenes." Incidents are filled with homoerotic tension – there's lots of the kind of physical horseplay between males that tend to drive females, Lily included, crazy – but only two actual sex scenes, the below-the-belt of which remain just off-screen. The first, a blow-job given Mark by the host of a party our crew arrives at by mistake, offers clues to character and desire; the second is a hand-job on Mark that solidifies the inability to communicate we've been witnessing all along. Via this constant frustration of needs unmet, the movie resonates.
Caveat(s): A soundtrack that is sometimes just too noisy with ambient sound (crickets, cicadas or some such beast). And for viewers who insist on lots of action and Big Events, this is perhaps not your movie.
Fleming shot his film on hi-def digital video, and many of its images – sea and coastline, foliage and forest – are quite beautiful; he and cinematographer Nils Kenaston composed their shots with care and an eye for the "outsider" status the little group represents. The filmmaker saves his most unusual tactic for the finale, when we see the recipient of the email and phone calls, to whom the entire film has been directed. It's a lovely, warm shot that speaks volumes about what women can mean to men, even when some – maybe all – of those men are gay.
Posted by cphillips at May 24, 2010 3:58 PM