Most parents can relate to a situation in which a young child attempts to draw the family, and though the heart and intentions are there, and it’s an adorable cause for celebration, the drawing itself is usually just a mishmash of different-sized lines and shapes. It gives the illusion of a family, but without any of the details that make them outwardly recognizable to anyone else. Watching indie director Christian Sesma’s newest flick, the sci-fi thriller Lost Time, is a lot like looking at one of those drawings. What’s being attempted here is obvious, and it’s a valiant effort on several levels, but almost every scene taken out of context is a pile of hot alien garbage.
More disappointing than spending 90+ minutes on a lost cause is the fact that Lost Time is technically sound (enough for a super low-budget movie) and could have been a weirdo-thriller that was more mind-boggling than mind numbing. I imagine Sesma, along with co-writers Kenneth Owens and lead actress Rochelle Vallese, had a solid story outline developed, but it was unfortunately fleshed out with scenes and dialogue that offer zilch as far as entertainment value goes.
Vallese plays Valerie Dreyfuss, a bald cancer victim who is on her last legs, though her sister Melissa (Jenni Blong) is intent on keeping hope alive. Everything soon changes, however, once Melissa disappears in the middle of a drive home. Valerie wakes up, unaware of what happened, though she’s having dreams about alien encounters. Months later, no one can rationally explain what happened to the vanished Melissa, not even her detective fuck-buddy Carter (Luke Goss), so she looks for completely irrational explanations, which leads her to Dr. Xavier Reed (Robert Davi). Dr. Reed knows all about “lost time” and shit like that, and even wrote a book to back that knowledge up. Plus, his book has a commercial, so you know it’s legit. (If only a book or commercial would explain why Valerie’s cancer is gone and her hair is really long now.)
Xavier runs a “sanctuary,” where a group of people who have also experienced lost time have pseudo-therapy sessions, with Nurse Mary (Maria Olsen) and Mr. Elliot (Derek Mears) as the drone-like facilitators of the impending horror. (I say “horror” in the loosest form of the word.) The other patients here aren’t even worth mentioning, as they’re just bloody-nosed cogs in this machine. Valerie soon realizes she can’t leave as easily as she was told she could. Then some other stuff happens.
As a director, Sesma is fine, and I could easily see him transitioning to genre TV shows. There’s a lot of out-of-focus shots and tons of camera shaking when things get intense, all of which are stock tricks for this kind of flick. The technical problems are more in the sound design, which relies a lot on echoed dialogue and a piss-poor soundtrack, which uses some extremely on-the-nose songs to punctuate these events.
And what to say about the problems with the acting and the writing? Both of those aspects straddle the line between plain bad and guffawingly bad. One of the sanctuary characters hears voices and listens to lyrics-free heavy metal on headphones while she cuts herself. Another just draws weird useless symbols on sheets of paper while muttering “Illuminati” over and over. (Seriously, there are a smattering of pages strewn about, some with alphabet key-looking drawings, and one page that hilariously just says “KILL KILL.”) I could have used a lot more misguided ridiculousness like that, and Lost Time comes close to a magic moment during a sequence where the “Mysterious Woman” played by Insidious‘ Lin Shaye takes Valerie on a mental journey. But it’s too little too late by that point.
Sesma shall remain on the list of directors who may make decent genre flicks in the future, but Lost Time should have only been a sizzle reel to show what he could do without a lot of money backing him up. But you don’t have to take my word for it, you can find out for yourself by renting or buying the Lost Time on iTunes and other VOD outlets.