An agoraphobic and washed-up rock star is confronted by a nosy new neighbour and an imaginary nuisance in Jeff Hindenach’s comedy-drama Lost Inside.
Opening with jump cuts of paparazzi camera flashes, live performances, and the more mundane lifestyle of searching cupboards, exercising, and daytime TV, we are introduced to Benji Williams a seemingly ordinary Joe. Everything we see in the opening few minutes suggests that Benji is just your average, run-of-the-mill young man. Initially, his only quirk is his brief conversations with an urn that contains the ashes of his dead mother, but gradually we are given clues that point us towards something rather more serious. Benji used to be a famous rock star but has suffered a huge fall from grace, he now lives alone and his biggest fear is leaving his apartment. Nowadays, instead of performing in front of crowds, Benji panics every time there is a knock on his door, shies away from the people who stand outside his peephole, and he plays online games to pass the time. His only meaningful conversations are with a buddy Jordan Tyler who appears in his room out of nowhere, and also happens to be a figment of his imagination.
Spencer Scruggs plays Benji, our world-weary, agoraphobic everyman, remaining a likeable presence throughout the film. Garret Ryan plays his imaginary partner Jordan who, with a Ryan Reynolds-Esque delivery and sarcastic cheek, makes Benji’s already uncomfortable existence almost unbearable. There is nice chemistry between the two actors that manages to bring out the comedic moments in a relatively bleak script. Jordan’s acerbic one-liners and magical appearances in awkward situations help put a smile on our faces. Into this melting pot of strained mental health bounds Sylvia, Benji’s pretty new neighbour. Serra Naiman fills the character of Sylvia with exuberance and joy, like a lovable Labrador puppy looking for a friend. Sylvia finds Benji fascinating, lonely, and in need of help,. The “will they, won’t they” romance between the two is very sweet.
Lost Inside was filmed in just one location – an apartment block, with a few exterior shots dotted amongst the 95-minute runtime. It’s another production filmed during COVID and the movie is essentially a filmed stage play in which men and women ponder their differences and complexities. Although the pandemic caused a lot of problems for the independent film sector, especially those with very little budget, there was the odd advantage, COVID managed to make writers better. Due to restrictions on movement and between people, writers had no choice but to be more imaginative with their writing. They had to find different ways to solve problems and this has led to more interesting scripts. That goes for Jeff Hindenach’s writing and direction here too, as I stopped thinking about the constraints of Lost Inside and started thinking about the movie’s quality.
The characters are all smart and articulate, testing each other’s nerves and values. The script is clever, witty, and moving with Hindenach’s shot choices managing to make the one location nicely cinematic. His cinematographer Unnikrishnan Raveendranathen gives the film a nice gritty feel early on, capturing dark colour schemes highlighting Benji’s state of mind. Later, everything becomes much brighter and shiny as Benji’s mental health improves. For audiences, Lost Inside is quite a small-yet-inspiring film. For other filmmakers, Lost Inside can be seen as a successful exercise in restraint.