Life’s ups and downs and a whole heap of happenstance make for a breezy good time in Lost & Found, a new low-budget charmer by writer and director Liam O Mochain.
We begin at a railway station in a small Irish town. It’s a one horse, two pubs and a church kind of place. The train station is its busiest feature, a distraction from the humdrum of local life.
Daniel (Liam O Mochain) is starting a new job at the station’s lost-and-found office. It’s a busy place too, full of lost luggage and knick-knacks, shown in a cute montage over the film’s opening credits.
Daniel’s boss, Joe (Brendan Conroy) is an oddball. Joe’s boss is an oddball too. The passengers that come into the lost and found to drop off or collect misplaced property are oddballs as well.
Everyone’s a character and Daniel does his best to stay sane in this weird working environment. After all, he really needs the job.
Initially, Lost & Found feels like a modern-day cringe comedy. Characters speak in riddles and cut across one another in a way that makes for squirmy viewing. I was watching through my fingers for the first 10 minutes or so.
In these opening minutes I worried that Lost & Found was taking pages from the playbook of the McDonagh brothers (Calvary, The Guard, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri): small town, cooky inhabitants, one good man turned bad by said inhabitants.
But O Mochain’s world is less bleak than the McDonaghs’. In fact, I would say that thinking back on it, there’s not a mean frame in this film; it feels like a wholly humane and caring piece of work.
The initial feelings of awkwardness soon give way to a worldview full of wonder and empathy. We come to see it as a clever bit of set-up that gives the audience a brush of familiarity with the film’s large and interconnected ensemble.
Daniel is a part of all of the stories in the film in one way or another, but the stories are not necessarily about him.
Lost & Found is consistently funny, but not overly jokey. This is a tender sort of film that’s heartfelt and earnest. O Mochain’s Daniel personifies this. He’s a sensitive guy, well-meaning, always willing to help out. He’s played with the eager enthusiasm of a golden retriever, and there’s something very watchable about that.
This watchability is true of the rest of the film’s ensemble as well. Standouts for me were Lynette Callaghan, who delights as a surly barmaid, and Seamus Hughes as Gabriel, Daniel’s best buddy, who’s got a great surfer dude look about him. But really, there are no weak links in the cast.
The structure of the film is engaging as well. We’re teased with the various goings on in and around the town at the start of the film, and then we follow other characters through vignettes.
Each episode is presented with its own title card that hints at its content. There’s fun to be had in guessing what’s coming up next. To the film’s credit, we never quite know where things are going.
I won’t go into the specifics of each episode. The little surprises they throw up are best seen with fresh eyes. But I will talk about the sequence that left the biggest impression on me.
In “Ticket to Somewhere” an old-age pensioner named Eddy (Liam Carney) tries to chit-chat with a couple of teens at the train station. The kids aren’t interested, but he prattles on before asking them for money.
Later, we see Eddy outside the station. This time he’s telling a different story, but still looking for change. Daniel obliges but teases the old-timer when he sees him outside the station the next day.
Days pass and eventually Eddy gets on a train, supposedly to visit his wife in Dublin. There’s another twist in the story too, although the answer to the puzzle seems obvious when it comes up.
There’s a thrill in knowing you were right, or in finding you were wrong about someone and their situation.
O Mochain, in weaving these stories together, mixing timelines and reintroducing characters from other episodes in surprising ways captures that quintessential small-town feeling where everybody knows everybody else and nothing is secret for long.
This is a common theme in Irish films, and is often shown to be a negative characteristic of small-town living. But in Lost & Found the nosiness of the villagers, and the interconnectedness of their lives is shown to be a very positive thing indeed.
We get a sense of the meaning that people have in one another’s lives through an ever-expanding web of relationships. It’s satisfying to see plot points come together.
The feeling I got from Lost & Found was that, more than anything, O Mochain cares about people – about the highs and lows and ins and outs of their lives, but also about the way in which we affect people we meet.
The way the episodes bring together the various threads and characters from previous sequences shows us, in a tangible way, the impacts that individuals can have on a community and vice versa.
Lost & Found is a modest picture. It tells a simple story, or in this case, stories, in an interesting and well-crafted way. Ultimately though, O Mochain’s film charms us with its winsome worldview.
The characters in Lost & Found are always good to one another, and in these turbulent times stories like this prove their worth.
Lost & Found is in cinemas from 13 July.