Directed by Chase Connor
Starring Shane Fike, Heather Dodson, Brandon Alexander & Stephanie Mason-Teague
Indie Film Review by Chris Olson
There is a quiet paradox to war that has an immense human effect. Battle and conflict are platforms for frenetic chaos, violence and rage; places where the pace of life is so demandingly quick that the phrase life and death is never more apt anywhere else. Compare this with life outside of war, where veterans and survivors must adapt to a lifestyle they fought to protect but never to embrace, and therein lies the paradox. Director Chase Connor’s indie film Less Lost tells the tragic tale of one TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) survivor, whose post-battle environment is at constant conflict with the scars of war.
Shane Fike plays Luke, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, conflicts that left him a medically retired soldier ravaged with personal troubles, both physical and psychological. Attending veteran meetings and attempting to reconnect with his wife Jenn (Heather Dodson) and daughter Faith (Leisa DiGeorge), Luke is troubled with violent outbursts, a severe detachment from those around him, and flashbacks of the atrocities he has witnessed. One of the veterans he meets, Darien (Brandon Alexander), offers the hand of friendship and attempts to aid Luke in his recovery and readjustment.
Filmed with an intensity, Less Lost does its troubling subject matter proud. This is not a light watch, but one most definitely worth having. From the powerhouse performance from Fike to the emotionally arresting sequences of warfare, Connor’s indie film is utterly gripping.
Quick editing and handheld cameras are used to elicit the sense of uncontrollability that really drives the narrative, whilst the dialogue is sharp and direct to complement the rawness of the central characters. This is balanced with scenes in the veterans group (led by Stephanie Mason-Teague) where the soldier banter and joking offers a much-needed glimpse at the camaraderie that these fighters rely on to survive. This is also picked up in the sequences where Luke is in the army, smartly avoiding the politics of war and instead focusing on the brotherhood these guys find themselves in.
Films depicting PTSD and the effects of war are numerous, and many films have documented the tragic nature of the War on Terror and how it has affected troops. The dialogue created by such films is totally benefitted by the voice of Connor and Fike - who co-wrote Less Lost. This story about the reintroduction of Luke into society taps into the brutality of the transition, there is such a ferocity to the film that the ulterior themes just leap off the screen. This is bolstered, as mentioned, by Fike’s phenomenal performance. Darkly intense, his portrayal of Luke is nuanced and sensitive, and completely believable. The shocking outbursts at some of the everyday assholes he comes across, are there to be measured against his attempts to see his daughter again. Alexander is also tremendous as the voice that gets through to Luke, with a reserved calm and embracing solemnity that is great to watch.
The sound editing, which seems fluid and disjointed from the visuals, is a fantastic device used to portray the immersive nature of Luke’s affliction.
Given the indie budget and the divisive nature of the story, the cast and crew involved with Connor’s film can sit happily with this important and engaging achievement; a noteworthy thread in the tapestry of violence that is the War on Terror genre.