Tribeca Film Festival: Lost Transmissions (2019) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

Lost Transmissions (2019) was kind of made to peak my interests. For one, I’m a huge fan of Simon Pegg. Also, I love movies about musicians and the music industry. Then, I enjoy stories that deal with mental health in grounded ways, which seem well-researched and are often too intriguing to deny. Thus, I found Katharine O’Brien’s film, and it really clicked with me.

Hannah (Juno Temple) finds herself concerned with the well-being of her music producer friend, Theo (Pegg). He has decided to stop taking his medication for schizophrenia, and is suffering from the disorder. Hannah finds that he has burnt many bridges as a result of this self-destructive behavior, and that the mental health care system isn’t much help if the patient isn’t a physical threat to himself or others.

The film opens at a party where Theo is entertaining his friends by playing and singing improvised songs about them to them. He convinces Hannah to do the same in exchange for something. He is taken by her singing, and reaches out to her to record some of her own songs. I loved the chemistry that Temple and Pegg have, as their characters quickly bond. There is no hint at how long they’ve been friends, but Hannah seems to be new to the group, as she is filled in about Theo’s history with mental illness over the course of the film. The audience has to believe that Hannah would care so much for Theo so quickly, and I believe the performances sell this completely.

After their recording session, Hannah informs Theo that she takes anti-depressants after attempting to kill herself years earlier. He asks if she ever considers going off her medication, and proposes the idea that maybe she’s cured but doesn’t know since she keeps taking it. She insists “no”, and we see her hesitate soon after while taking a pill – but then committing to her routine. The juxtaposition of their respective mental health issues and medication become an interesting idea as the film goes on. I’m not 100% sure I grasped what O’Brien was saying by putting the two ideas against each other, but ultimately I think there is a wealth of commentary on how people with mental health issues are treated by others and the industry that is supposed to be in place to help them here in the states.

I definitely recommend you check out Lost Transmissions. Its a compelling film with really great performances and it has something to say. I didn’t even get into the commentary on pop-music that is tied to Hannah’s recordings, and a follow-up opportunity to write for Dana Lee (Alexandra Daddario). It’s a short aspect of the film, but it helps show Hannah’s arc and her struggle with her own medication. Lost Transmissions earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.

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