The Lost Son (1999)
User ReviewsReview this title
This film felt very French to me in its cinematography and overall styling, although largely London based, and shot mainly in English.
The acting throughout was excellent, perhaps with the exception of Ciaran Hinds' Brazilian/American/Irish accent! Ciaran plays the lost son's brother in law, who brings Lombard, the French private detective living in London, in to try to solve the case of the disappearance.
The film does deal with a very sensitive subject, but I felt it did so sensitively, showing how an empire can be brought down by one man, if he feels strongly enough to sacrifice everything he has.
There are some very violent scenes, and they are wholly central to the script, highlighting how low Lombard's character, is brought by his passion and anger at what horrors he has uncovered in a paedophile ring, involved in the disappearance of the lost son. Lombard makes moral decisions throughout the film that are understandable and I feel that this is a very powerful film.
The late Katrin Cartlidge puts in a very strong performance, supporting Lombard's character in his ultimate revenge plot. Lombard's "tart with a heart" best friend, Marianne Denicourt, is excellent in a stunning bitter-sweet role, and Billie Whitelaw is fabulous as the stern, businesslike matriarch, whose lost son is being sought by Lombard, and who also comes to terms with tragic loss, as Lombard also must. Auteuil, as always, is credible, beautiful and gives a very moving performance. Although it took me a few minutes to get over his English "voice"!
In my opinion, this must be one of the best international, cross-over, thrillers in recent years.
He was pretty good, despite his English being a bit hard to understand on occasion. It was nice to have a mix between his English and his native French when he spoke to friends from his homeland.
The story itself is a bit convoluted, but that really doesnt matter. It changes focus half way through and really is not about finding "The Lost Son", but really about his own personal revenge against the vile people who deal in the child sex industry.
I enjoyed the music by Goran Bregovic a lot, and am going to track down more of his work.
A solid 8 out of 10.
Second, this film was a lot of fun for me to watch because I have seen Daniel Auteuil in many films and this was the first time I saw him acting in English and he did an excellent job. In addition, the character he played was a lot different than I was used to seeing. In Hollywood, this role might have been played by a more traditionally "macho" star--but I really think it helped to have a shorter, middle-aged and not particularly hunky guy play the role. It helped to make the plot seem more real.
As mentioned above, the plot involves child sexual abuse and the sick soul-less people who profit from buying and selling children. Auteuil plays a private detective who stumbles into this industry when searching for a missing man. But how he resolves this will either totally put you off or offer a great reward depending on your sensibilities. If you can't accept him becoming a vigilante and killing or maiming these evil people, then I suggest you don't watch the film. I admit was totally repulsed by the sexual deviants and found it very satisfying to watch them get killed--particularly the last guy. The film really manages to tap into your visceral disgust for sexual predators--and some may feel disturbed that they can ENJOY watching these men die.
About the only negative is the role played by Nastasia Kinski. Her character, at times, seems a little too shrill and annoying--almost more of a caricature than a 3-dimensional woman. Later the movie explains, in part, her over-reactions but I just felt she was a poorly developed character. However, considering she is NOT really that important to the plot, this can be overlooked.
The writing, direction and most of the acting is first-rate. Give it a try.
Shot mostly on location in London, the film captures the claustrophobia and loneliness of Lombard's existence since the death of his wife and child, the catalyst for his own need to run away. Moving the action to Mexico destroys the sense of isolation and spoils the flow of the film immensely. Auteil's performance as the hard-bitten private investigator veers away from cliche because you really can believe in this man's story. He himself is a 'lost son', searching for some meaning to exorcise his own demons, and sorting out other people's problems while trying to bury his own. It is telling that his only real friend is a prostitute, and his life tends to revolve around those close to the 'business' he so ardently abhors.
'The Lost Son' isn't an easy film to watch, and doesn't deliver on all it promises, with a tendency to favour flashiness over a fleshed out story. But worth seeing, nonetheless.
The investigation takes Xavier to the missing man's girlfriend, Emily, who meets him with suspicion, aiming a shotgun at him. She has reasons for the hostility, she is caring for Shiva, a boy rescued by the missing man because he was being used for unscrupulous sexual purposes, leaving the boy speechless. Shiva can only mutter a name: "The Austrian" as the man that got him into sexual slavery. Xavier decides to consult with his friend, Nathalie, a French prostitute, because her contacts in the British underworld.
Nathalie puts Xavier in contact with what turned out to be a pedophile ring operating among London's elite. His investigation takes him deeply into the gang's territory, even going as far into Mexico to get to the root of how the children are taken away to be groomed for what they in turn will become. A lot of money is at stake. Xavier's finding will reveal who the real mastermind is, something that will stun him.
Chris Menges, a distinguished cinematographer himself, directs the film. Written by Marie and Eric Leclere with Mark Mills, this is a thriller adventure that holds the viewer's suspense because it is credible. The insidious work of pedophiles amazes Xavier, having suffered the loss of a daughter himself. The production was photographed by Barry Ackroyd, the Oscar winning cinematographer for "The Hurt Locker". The music score is by Boran Bregovic.
Daniel Auteuil, a wonderful French actor, shows courage accepting to appear as the star of this film. Even though his accent is a bit thick, he manages to portray the man at the center of the action. Not being associated with this type of genre, he does well in a film that takes him away from his usual roles in France. The late Katrin Cartlidge appears as Emily. Marianne Denicourt does an excellent Nathalie, and Natassja Kinski plays the grieving sister of the disappeared man. Ciaran Hinds makes the most of his Carlos De Moraes.
All the elements are here for a classic noir-inspired investigation movie where no one is to be trusted and our leading man is a likable, steady, world weary paradigm. If you are familiar with "The Big Sleep" with Bogart and crew, you might actually get a sense of what this movie is trying to do. Not only does the plot begin in a similar way, with a rich family saying one of their members (the son) is missing and with the daughter being a steamy and somewhat unreliable secondary force (played by Nastassja Kinski), but then the rest of the movie proceeds to get increasingly confusing.
In "The Big Sleep" this is almost a positive thing, making it fast, visual, and experiential (meaning you get sucked into the world and can't stop looking and trying to keep up). Here, in "The Lost Son," it isn't what anyone would call fast, which hurts it because the complexity builds and the suspicions fester with lots of lulls, either whole short scenes that don't seem quite necessary or with an editing that makes every little cut one or two seconds too long. Which adds up to a kind of pace some people might like, a loitering and inhabiting this strange little nether world the movie creates. But for me it just made me fuzz out a little.
The leading detective, Xavier Lombard, is played by the really compelling French actor, Daniel Auteuil. He carries the movie even through it's pauses. Besides Kinski, whose role is small (and thankfully, really--she doesn't really "act" so much as say her lines), there is a second male lead, the Irish actor Ciaran Hinds, who is quite good. (He had a terrific role in the peculiar and enjoyable "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.") And the filming is rather nice, with a huge range of scenes and moods, held together not only by the camera-work, but the solid directing by Chris Menges.
There will be an odd feel to this film for some American viewers, because it's an increasingly common hybrid of French and British filmmaking--language, crew, cast, and locations all spread out from one side of the Channel to the other. It's nicely European, but less of that familiar "British" film that many people know (or know without knowing they know it, looking vaguely like Hollywood). In short, this has a slightly fresh look. It does not however feel as new or odd or wonderful as some of the detective crime films coming out of, say, Scandinavia, among the European types.
This matters only in that half of the film is its atmosphere. The plot and some of the core acting could use a bolstering and maybe even a sense of necessity at times (the movie just keeps going through its attractive paces), but in all, it might even be a film you'd enjoy more the second time. Which says a lot.
The film is not fun nor is it that good but it has some moments of suspense and we enjoy the bad guys getting what they deserve. The child urinating was a bit over the top. Auteuil wears a weary expression. His character is not that exciting but he grows on you somewhat. The rest of the actors seem awkward and once again Nastassja Kinski was wasted.
Films like this leave me feeling like the end is near for us all.
Daniel Auteuil plays Xavier Lombard, a private investigator who's left France to live in London; a man specialising in surveillance and detection for clients whom want someone found or watched. We garner he speaks English and Italian on top of his native language, and eventually wonder how a nice guy gets mixed up in such a racket – the early scenes establishing his character doing a job which sees him keep tabs on a some sleazy infidelities, before approaching the guilty party to warn them their partner's onto them. "I've just saved your marriage" he tells them, without dropping them in it post-warning. Lombard, despite smoking, enjoys the physicality of life; he plays football, badly, and gets knocked about by his English opponents (revenge comes at home when he places a 'shipwrekced' submarine sporting the Union Jack at the bottom of his fish tank) and is persistently out-jogged when out jogging. A fairly popular guy, his one other friend is a local call-girl named Natalie (Denicourt) and she's responsible for the film's best line when she notices one of her earlier male clients down the row at a nice restaurant they're dining at. "I think you just ruined his evening...." quips Lombard; "Ah yes....", she replies, "....but earlier on I made his day".
It is the Spitz family whom come to Lombard with a job possessing the capacity to hurtle him down a grossly different route; his eventual uncovering of a child trafficking organisation the forcing of him into confronting, indeed repenting, for his inability to successfully save his own son whom died in a car wreck years ago. But that comes later, much later; the decent parts of the film arriving first when it is revealed Leon, a family member to that of the Spitz's, is missing and Lombard is dutifully called to find him again. This leads him onto a trek through London and eventually to Mexico, by way of Suffolk, of course, after some decent cause and effect early on that leads him to a rather sordid place more broadly linked to paedophilia that I did not expect the film to go.
I like to think that had The Lost Son been made fifty or so years prior to its actual production date, it might have started with an establishing shot of a piece of city iconography before cutting closer, and closer still, to a small building plus-office-inside that's actually situated on a studio back-lot. Within this office you would find the wily investigative lead with his name printed on the glass section of his door and the neighbouring buildings, plus their exterior, vaguely on show through the window which he always sits with his back toward. Perhaps the guy would have a bit of a drinking problem, something deeply affecting in the past driving him to such a place, but he'd almost always be as just cynical as he is good at going about his business – drinking problems rarely stopped these people succeeding.
Chris Menges' film is not a picture of decades ago, it is a picture of near-enough now; times have changed and the lead in The Lost Son is allowed a tragic back-story, but this does not lead to a drinking problem - on the contrary, he is fit and athletic; he is allowed to have people meet with him and ask him to find item "x", but must do so in a large suite to a luxury hotel. Change can be good fun; hybridisation and post-modernity are fine, in moderation, whilst I'm not against the developing of ground genres if it means shifting film noir into an era of "neo" noir, but by this point, I wished the film had placed these proverbial cards on the table nearer the beginning and just given our guy a drinking habit. It is during the early segments that we enjoy the film the most; the first acts then descending into hogwash of the most mundane sort as nearer the end as he zip off abroad sand the film bolts from its genre foundations stable to head for the big, wide world; a sub-Licence to Kill espionage thriller no where near making use of its ground substance that 2002's Dirty Pretty Things would later go on to explore tautly and effectively in its depiction of a sordid, multi-racial base of operations in an affluent part of England's capital city. There are workmanlike traits about The Lost Son, and a good lead performance, but we dislike and find the shattering of his world just as unpleasurable as he eventually does.
Unfortunately, Xavier (Auteuil), playing a private eye doesn't really fit into any particular type and neither the script nor he, is individual enough to make him stand out. At least we had Morse, or Wallander to make us want to watch it, when it ran a little slow.
The Lost Son, to my mind, plays more like a TV crime drama; gritty, topical but covering too much ground, and a cast with too much variety for the script to flesh out their characters. There's been a fair few French thrillers recently (though this was released 11 years ago) that seem to be basic thrillers.
The story is wholesome enough, even if the subject of it isn't and is told in a workmanlike fashion. As the film ended, I couldn't help thinking that as a taster, some inkling of the outcome should be in the opening scene and then it all be told in flashback. As it is, the unfolding is quite slow and laborious, especially for a modern audience.
All in all, proof that foreign films can be just as cyniccally manipulative as the most meretricious Hollywood dreck.