thatcow

Heartbreaking

I had another review for this film, based on my memories and notes from Sundance 2001. I guess sometimes it's easier to remember the flaws than the high points, because now that it's showing on cable, I find myself more forgiving of those original flaws.

That year at Sundance, Lost and Delirious was among several first English language film from French-language directors. This time, Canadian director Léa Pool takes the reins, so we don't quite have the same frank and hollowing treatment of sexuality that seems to come from France proper.

We begin with Mary's (Misha Barton) arrival at an all-girls boarding school. She is roomed with Tori and Pauline, and it doesn't take long for Mary to pick up that her roomies have a secret romantic relationship - being in the same room leaves little to the imagination, and Mary essentially takes on the role of observer, providing us the eyes to watch what happens in this relationship.

Adolescent sexuality is a charged time, full of confusion, and in this context, it's easy for the film to raise the stakes. Tori breaks off the relationship when her sister walks in on them - she is scared of her repressive father, and decides it best to ignore her heart and follow the path more travelled. Pauline's world is quite the opposite - adoptive parents who don't call, and little to ground her - so when Tori goes full stop on her, she is cast completely adrift on her raging emotions. Mary tries to be a friend to them both, but there's only so much she can do.

There's other plots going on - Pauline helps an injured raptor to fly, seeing herself as a reflection of the creature. She also undergoes a search for her birth mother. Tori takes up with a boy, only to fuel Pauline's jealousy and disbelief. Mary - well, she lost her mother, and recreates a connection with her by helping the staff maintenance man with the gardening - something the two had spent much time doing when she was alive. But this all is fairly peripheral to the struggle between Tori and Pauline.

In my first review, I went on about how, as a book adaptation, there was a lot of material that only gets referenced peripherally that deserves better treatment. Such adaptations as this one are tough - toying with the structure too much would lose many of the underlying themes, so while there is definitely a flaw, it is a minor one, and the filmmakers seem to have done what they could to reconcile story needs with a reasonable running time.

Everyone's performance is fabulous - especially Piper Perabo as Pauline - and the pain on screen is palpable. The ending is a little cheesy, but not unreasonably so. I suppose that, after watching so many good films at Sundance, I was starting to look for flaws to differentiate them, and concentrated a bit too much on what I found. While I imagine the action crowd won't have much patience with Lost and Delirious, it is definitely worthwhile.

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