Lost Transmissions

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Lost Transmissions Movie Poster Image
Mature tale of friendship, schizophrenia doesn't quite gel.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 105 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Addresses issue of medication: It can make you feel better, but there are also side effects and a feeling that you're not entirely "yourself." Is it better to have that "self" feeling, if it means risking other things? Movie doesn't give definitive answer, but it's an interesting discussion. Some discussion about health care in general (movie argues that it's better in England than in the United States).

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hannah selflessly goes out of her way to help Theo, but her motives -- outside of friendship or a debt of gratitude -- aren't very clear. She seems to try to be a good person throughout, even if she sometimes makes iffy decisions. Other characters aren't so admirable.

Violence

Cops arrest a man, beating him, drawing guns. Tense schizophrenia-related scenes include shouting, stress, noise. In a moving car, a character grabs the driver's arms away from the wheel; the car goes out of control. Another character has scars; she explains that she "drove into a tree."

Sex

Characters kiss passionately. One character kisses another on the cheek. Spoken sexual references.

Language

Many uses of "f--k" and "f--king." Also "s--t," "a--hole," "hell," "whacking off," "oh my God," and "Jesus Christ" (used as an exclamation).

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters take "magic mushrooms" at a party. Discussions about medication: antidepressants and antipsychotics. Reference to "bad acid." Drinking at party. Smoking at party. Other drug-related talk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Lost Transmissions is a drama about the effect of schizophrenia on the friendship of two Los Angeles musicians (Juno Temple and Simon Pegg). It has many references to medications (antidepressants, antipsychotics, etc.), characters take magic mushrooms, and there's some drinking and smoking, as well as other drug references. Language is very strong, with multiple use of "f--k" or "f--king" and more. Cops arrest a man and beat him, and there are stressful moments of shouting and noise. A man grabs the arms of another man who's driving, causing the car to swerve out of control. Two women kiss passionately in a swimming pool, and there's brief sex-related dialogue. Despite strong performances and likable characters, the movie doesn't quite make a believable connection between the friends, and much of it feels false or tentative.

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What's the story?

In LOST TRANSMISSIONS, receptionist Hannah (Juno Temple) attends a Los Angeles party and meets noted record producer Theo Ross (Simon Pegg) while he serenades the party on piano and coaxes her to sing. He invites her to his studio, telling her she has real talent. They record some demos, which are strong enough to land Hannah a job writing tunes for pop star Dana Lee (Alexandra Daddario). Meanwhile, after a discussion about medication, Theo decides to stop taking his own treatment for schizophrenia. As a result, he becomes increasingly unhinged and irrational. Hannah continually tries to help, despite Theo's own best efforts to sabotage it. Attempting to get him admitted to a hospital, she finds the U.S. healthcare system woefully inadequate. So she must convince her friend to return to London, where he can finally get the help he needs.

Is it any good?

An earnest attempt to find empathy in a horrifying situation, this indecisive drama doesn't quite emotionally connect its two main characters. The scuzzy, brownish visual palette doesn't help much, either. Lost Transmissions starts well, and the characters are, by themselves, quite interesting. Their dialogue and the performances are naturalistic and charming, and it's easy to get behind them -- for a time. The movie is also bold enough to depict a platonic male-female friendship, with no promise of romance (nor threat of violence). But the movie sags under the weight of this question: How far would Hannah really go to help Theo? Is she doing it out of friendship or a feeling of debt?

It's never quite clear, and there's a constant gap in the story as a result. Moreover, the movie's depiction of the Los Angeles music industry never feels truly genuine. It feels a little fake, a little forced, especially when Hannah lands such a huge job in such a short time. As the pop star, the usually delightful Daddario gets very little screen time and has little to do other than imitate what someone thinks a pop star might act like. Finally, characters constantly flip-flop on issues like whether or not to stop taking medication (to remain "pure") and on getting, and giving, help. Ultimately, Lost Transmissions leaves a little too much hanging in the air to feel fully satisfying.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Lost Transmissions depicts drug/substance use. What's the attitude toward prescription drugs versus other, recreational drugs?

  • What is schizophrenia? Why do you think it has been used as part of the story in many horror movies, thrillers, and dark comedies? How does that foster stereotypes and misunderstanding?

  • What is a platonic friendship? Why does it seem like such a rare thing in movies? Have you ever had a platonic friendship?

  • What does the movie have to say about health care? Why would health care be better in England than in the United States?

Movie details

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