Lost In London, Woody Harrelson’s directorial debut, is a technical phenomenon as the first feature film live-streamed directly into the cinemas, vigorously rehearsed and then performed to an audience who saw it in real-time. I was given an opportunity to be amongst one of the first few audiences to see it (besides those to whom it was broadcast live) in York’s City Screen Picturehouse on Easter Sunday, and was also treated to a Q&A from Harrelson himself.
The film is based on the true story of a crazy night in Woody’s life in 2002 during which he had a foursome leaked in the tabloid press, leaving his marriage on the rocks, and would see himself plunged into a few more tabloid scandals by the end of the night. The narrative follows him as he tries to get back to his wife to apologise and to his kids who he has planned to take to meet Harry Potter the next morning. Through nightclubs, taxis and other aspects of London night life, Woody searches for his way home encountering a prince, an infuriated cabbie, two dodgy policemen, his best friend Owen Wilson and the ‘Buddha of Texas’ himself, Willie Nelson.
The technical achievement of this film cannot be understated; it is incredible how a crew of people were able to all come together for such an event. The film required unbelievable levels of organisation as transportation and location management must have been a nightmare. The film in this sense is comparable to Victoria (2016) in that it is shot in a single unbroken take, only Lost In London takes the viewers across London instead of Berlin, with the added difficulty of doing it live. Any mistake would have been immediately visible by the audience and while the film had its fair share of them, they went down without diminishing any of the enjoyment.
Harrelson’s intention with Lost In London was to merge film and theatre. A preamble to the film involves a montage of notable celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence and Matthew McConaughey, calling Woody an idiot for doing such a ridiculous thing; during the Q&A he claimed that he wouldn’t have done it if he’d known how hard it would be, but all in all he’s glad he did it and it was “heartwarming to hear the audience laugh at the bits he wanted to be funny”.
And funny it was; the comedy in Lost In London is very self-referential and self-deprecating as it is clear that Harrelson knows how to reflect on his own shortcomings and mock them. The film is not dependent on knowing Harrelson’s body of work as most of the humour comes from the supporting cast mistakenly recognising him as Woody Allen or as a member of the cast of Happy Days (though of course he was in Cheers, a show that he hilariously starts to sing the theme tune to in an attempt to get into a club). Harrelson pokes fun at the celebrity culture in which he himself is a part of, and amidst the comedy lies a heartwarming and philosophical tale. Harrelson called it his “odd love letter to his wife”. And a technical achievement with a heart and a sense of humour is a technical achievement worth seeing.
Lost In London is currently touring UK Picturehouse cinemas. Image source: Twitter.com/rawpicturesuk