From the first moments that Adelaide (Jami Tennille) shows up on the screen, writer/director Steve Gibson's new indie psychological thriller The Lost Within begins to do a slow, patiently building simmer that is both psychologically involving and entirely suspenseful. The latest subject to be approached by reporter/wannabe novelist Jon (David Gries), Adelaide proves to be the most socially accessible character Jon meets in an effort to explore the worlds of socially awkward, reclusive personalities.
Why have they shut themselves off from the world? What has helped to create their extreme isolation?
Adelaide immediately casts a spell as a unique yet strangely compelling character, part Little House on the Prairie and part Bates Motel. Having been raised in a cult-like communal group known only as "The Family," Adelaide may no longer be living in community but the community has clearly not left her behind. With an extreme social awkwardness and a reported volatility, Adelaide has planted herself at a remote, off-road motel having paid for five years up front yet having made nary a single true social connection during her time at the motel.
It makes sense that Jon finds himself drawn into Adelaide's mysterious life in a way that he hasn't been drawn into the others he's interviewed. As played by Jami Tennille, Adelaide possesses a sort of raw purity about herself yet also seems to hold within herself on a primal level a gritty edge that occasionally and increasingly reveals itself. At first a willing subject of Jon's professional yet obviously personal inquiries, Adelaide never opens the door as widely as Jon tries to push it as he learns more about Adelaide, "The Family" and secrets that, perhaps, she'd rather not have revealed.
Currently getting set for its festival run after being completed this past March, The Lost Within requires a certain degree of patience with Gibson's structured, intentional framework doing a slow build and Tennille radiating a quiet hesitation in everything she says and does. Gries, projecting a sort of Jake Gyllenhaal vibe suggesting both "boy next door" and a man who is just slightly unhinged himself.
Gus Soudah's lensing is effective throughout, occasionally lingering on facial expressions and a character's physicality, while Barbara Ross deserves extra kudos for a costume design that covers the full spectrum of the film's characters.
While The Lost Within occasionally drags, the film's overall pacing is so intentional that these minor issues don't come close to impacting the film's emotional resonance and suspenseful build. As a low-budget indie thriller, the film occasionally is hindered by its budgetary limitations but it's clear from beginning to end that Gibson has crafted an intelligent, meaningful story and built it in such a way that it works quite satisfyingly as an indie project. The Lost Within should have no problem finding a home on the indie and microcinema fest circuit and it would be a sin (Sorry, I couldn't resist!) if Gries and Tennille didn't pick up some awards along the way for their work here.
For more information on The Lost Within, visit the film's Facebook page linked to in the credits to the left of this review.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic