Lost Boy

By Peter Skinner | Drama
An insecure man argues with his girlfriend, then goes work with a black eye.

Tate is a young man who works as a bartender and is dating a woman he likes. But when he shows up to work one day with a fresh black eye, he's challenged by his boss to tell him what happened.

He's averse to telling his boss at first, but soon the truth begins to trickle out. His girlfriend Nicole was going out on her own with her friends one night, and Tate became insecure and started a fight. But as Tate opens up, it also becomes clear that his insecurities go deeper than he thinks.

Written and directed by Peter Skinner and told with a lucid, psychologically acute sense of naturalism, this short drama is both clear-eyed and tough about its main character's inability to deal with difficult emotions, but also compassionate in understanding how a deeper inner wound feeds into his often violent surface behavior.

Sparsely written, the film opens up with Tate and Nicole getting ready for their separate nights, he to work and Nicole to go out with friends. We see Tate's adoration of his girlfriend and their mutual affection for one another, but Tate also glimmers with insecurity about his girlfriend going out without him. When he sees that his girlfriend is getting a ride from a male friend, he loses it, bolting out the door.

The film then cuts to Tate going to work and being confronted by his boss Matt. Tate is rude, nonchalant and defensive, but as his boss prods and challenges him, Tate shifts into a more reflective space and the film slowly unfolds the gaps in the earlier action of the evening. Sometimes the narration and action align, but at some moments it doesn't, and the film's storytelling deftly explores the gap to set up a deeper psychological mystery -- one that bedevils Tate himself. It's the mystery of how Tate can't sit with his difficult feelings of shame, inadequacy and insecurity, and how it's tearing his life and relationship apart.

Actor Michael Sheasby portrays Tate's lostness, showing his volatility and quick temper. But his performance also deftly captures how these fire-hot feelings are masks for a deeper sadness and suffering. The mask of bravado and aggression hides a deep vulnerability, one that Tate can't quite handle in himself and perhaps even hates himself for. But while his job, relationship and life are in limbo at the film's end, he finally is forced to face his "lostness" at the narrative's end -- though we're aware that the journey ahead of him will likely remain turbulent.

The title of "Lost Boy" makes clear its preoccupation with the journey from boyhood to manhood, and its narrative is a powerful portrait of just how difficult that arc can be in a world where boys are not given many spaces to express and explore their vulnerability. Though Tate is troubled and volatile -- and the film captures the feedback loop between aggression, entitlement and shame -- to say the film is a tale about toxic masculinity would flatten its complexity and compassion. In the end, Tate only truly hurts himself, lost in the echo chamber of his unexamined feelings. At the end, he has the glimmers of a dawning self-awareness, perhaps -- but he still has a long way to go through the wilderness.

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