A young musician’s life begins to spiral out of control when he witnesses a terrible crime committed by the Mafia. Dropping his father’s guitar at the scene of the crime, he must find a way to reclaim his family legacy in Roozbeh Tavakoli’s comedy Lost And Spaced.
Maybe it’s to do with the British culture but we don’t tend to get many stoner comedies in this country, while America seems to produce them every few months. Seth Rogan and Judd Apatow are currently the biggest names to have made the genre their stock and trade, but Richard Linklater, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, and even The Coen Brothers have dabbled. It was Cheech & Chong in the ‘70s who set up the basic format that most stoner movies have followed, where two weed-loving buddies set out on a specific goal, evading the police or the villains while having outrageous drug-induced experiences along the way.
Tavakoli’s Lost And Spaced has a stoner title and a lot of surreal drug-infused sequences; it’s a typical stoner film that contains drug use, pop culture references, cartoonishly-weird people, gross-out humor, and completely toasted characters doing strange stuff. It’s a flight of fancy for people who just want to lie down and relax while watching the film’s hero do everything they’re probably too wasted to do.
Our protagonist is Nathan (played by the likable Joel Phillimore); he is a struggling musician with no money, no career, and no hope. He has bills that need paying but nothing to pay them with, all he has is his guitar which is a family heirloom that he uses to busk and play gigs with, both of which don’t make him any money. One night Nathan stumbles across a mafia hit where, due to his fear and panic in running away, he drops his guitar. He then spends the rest of the film roaming around London in fear of his life but, much like The Big Lebowski’s Dude and his rug, he too is desperate to reunite with his instrument.
There is an intensity and drive in Tavakoli’s direction that gives Lost And Spaced a large amount of desperation; it really seems to matter to him that his devastated hero struggles on, keeps going, and merely survives. Nathan, however, suffers from a relentless run of bad luck with each new person he meets, promising they will take care of him, help him, lend him something, give him a place to stay, or drive him home, but every offer of mercy turns into unanticipated danger. Also, every phone call he makes, or answers, leads to even more trouble.
Tavakoli cranks up the tension so much that it gets to the point where the audience dreads Nathan picking up the phone. It’s moments like this that generate the film’s sinister undertone. There is a high level of suspense in Lost And Spaced, which is a stoner comedy but plays at times like a surreal Lynchian nightmare.
The cinematography by James Devonport has some impressive moments; the scenes of Nathan running through the streets are exciting and look great, while Tavakoli’s editing and use of off-kilter angles and dutch angles lead to a sense of uneasiness that permeates throughout the entire 60-minute runtime.
Tavakoli’s direction and script manage to combine comedy with unrelenting pressure and a sense of paranoia. The result is a very original film and one we remain uncertain of long after the credits roll. After I watched the film, I felt exhausted and it didn’t matter that it was a black comedy or an exercise in style, it worked as a story and, even though it made little sense, it reeled me right in.