A while back I reviewed Don Swanson’s A WISH FOR GIANTS, an engaging film about a dying girl’s wish to meet Bigfoot. WHAT WAS LOST is a 24 minute short that actually predates that feature but is only now getting released via streaming services.
WHAT WAS LOST has been something of a passion project for Swanson, having been shot in 2012 and put together over six years and with the help of two rounds of crowdfunding. It’s somewhat ironic since the film is a cautionary tale about letting the pursuit of your passion become an obsession.
Joel (John-Patrick Driscoll) has a good job, wife (Elsa Carette) and what should be a happy life. But he isn’t happy, he’s obsessed with finding a supposedly lost manuscript. And over the course of one shattering day the full cost of that obsession comes due. Was it all worth it?
The script by Swanson, Driscoll and Emily Bennett leaves the answer to that question somewhat ambiguous. That is I suppose quite appropriate because to some it would be while others would never take their pursuits to that extreme. It’s left for the viewer to ponder and make their own judgement.
Driven by Driscoll’s performance WHAT WAS LOST makes the run-up to that conclusion worth the watch despite the lack of really likable characters. Joel is a bit too whiny at times and the lack of a backstory makes it harder to feel for him. In the case of his wife Brandi we can understand a neglected spouse turning to somebody else for affection. However, the way she handles it makes it hard to feel sympathy for her.
Maybe in a longer version with more backstory this would have worked better. Knowing more about what brought them to this point should let the viewer make more of a connection with the characters. Thankfully the performances do a lot to make up for that and keep the viewer engaged.