In 2017 Woody Harrelson made his directorial debut with the highly ambitious Lost in London. Filmed entirely in one take, the movie was broadcast live into theatres on the 19th of January 2017. Based on a true story, it stars Harrelson as himself on a night out in London that results in him being chased by the police. The film also stars Owen Wilson and Willie Nelson.
It’s a comedy with a witty script, also written by Harrelson. Cast as a slightly washed up version of himself, it’s filled with self-deprecating humour as bouncers fail to recognise him which prompts him to sing the theme from Cheers in an effort to evoke some nostalgia. The single camera slows the pace as the first act trundles on. The interactions between the characters are fun however the best scene is arguably in the nightclub when he meets Owen Wilson. Drawing on their real life friendship, it’s a hilarious altercation as Wilson tries to reassure his friend of his worth while trying to distance himself from him at the same time. The revelation that Wilson doesn’t regard Harrelson as his best friend just because Harrelson does he, results in an impromptu fight which is cleverly shot.
Shot in one take, it allows a chaotic and intimate invitation into the character’s journey, we never leave him and are along for the ride every second of the way. At 100 minutes, the runtime is a little bloated and could have benefited from some trimming. The film lags at points as the audience is never given a break; a demand is placed on your attention despite nothing much of note happening at times. The lack of cutaway shots makes for a frenetic pace albeit one that doesn’t always mirror the script.
The end result is more of a successful experiment in cinema than a complete movie. The production is near flawless with no obvious beats missed. The format isn’t without its limitations, however Harrelson pushes the boundaries of what can be achieved to ensure the film is exciting and doesn’t stagnate.
Such a premise could have been executed with a pretentious gaze, yet here we’re treated to an amusing tale that’s humble in its presentation. Arguably, the movie would have been better watched live as the recording takes away that element of risk associated with “what could possibly go wrong.” A remarkable directorial debut that although a little gimmicky, is propped up by great performances and funny dialogue. Lost in London isn’t a great film, it’s still a worthy comedy in its own right. A wonderful cinematic achievement.
Lost in London is released on DVD and Blu-ray March 4th 2019.