lost and delirious


Directed by: Léa Pool
Written by: Written by: Judith Thompson and Susan Swan

Lost and Delirious was 2001's All Over Me or Fucking Åmål, with a new bunch of kids in a new situation but with the same angst; how do you survive being a teenager and being gay? In any case, as was the case with these other great films, to look at Lost and Delirious as a "lesbian" film is to limit its possibilities. It is has universal themes; love, the ecstasy of first passion and the pain of first loss. There are few among us who can't relate to that, regardless of our sexuality.

Mary (Mischa Barton, now best known for The O.C) is a new girl at boarding school. She's resentful of her emotionally detached father and stepmother for sending her away and is still distraught over losing her mother some years before. Unsure of herself and painfully shy, she finds herself rooming with two very unconventional and outgoing girls: Paulie (Piper Perabo) and Tori (Jessica Paré). They are best friends and, as Mary soon finds out to her confusion, lovers as well.

Everything is perfect until the day the secret lovers are discovered. Tori, unable to deal with the fallout of coming out and acknowledging her feelings for Paulie, ends the sexual side of their relationship abruptly. Filled with confusion and sorrow, Paulie begins to try everything in her power to win Tori back, with disastrous consequences. Mary watches helplessly as Paulie descends into sorrow and is consumed by the intensity of her own passions.

Many reviews have said this but I'm afraid I'm going to have to echo it. Lost and Delirious doesn't contain much that could be considered startling or new. There are so many films I could list as influences here, but overall it did feel a bit like a Dead Poets Society for girls, where the so-called war is being fought over the hearts and souls of young girls who are drowning in their own attempts to grow and change.

What distinguishes this film from other boarding-school dramas can be expressed in two words - Piper Perabo. I was less than impressed by her eye-candy turn in Coyote Ugly, but there is only so much you can do when the material you have to work with is flawed. After the shallowness of that film, Paulie must have been an irresistable character to play; she's intense, passionate, gorgeous without being aware of it and gloriously articulate. The challenging dialogue could have sounded contrived and trite in the mouth of a less skilled actress, but surprisingly even the most clunky of passages rang true.

Perabo and Barton both have exciting screen presence, so much so that their performances gave the film a slightly lopsided feel as they overwhelmed all the rest of the characters and to some extent, even the plot. Particularly dwarfed was the insipid Tori, but that was partly the intention. She was the shrew, the bad guy, so she had to be unsympathetic. Unfortunately she was also unforgiveably dull.

Paulie is a modern day swashbuckler and poet, romantic and idealistic. As we all know, in the world of film it is these characters who are always destined for tragedy. They are simply unequipped to deal with the destruction of their ideals and romanticised world. Director Léa Pool attempts to tell the story of the "star cross'd lovers" through the eyes of naive observer Mary, who goes through some interesting changes of her own as she witnesses Paulie's transformation.

The remainder of the supporting cast was good but not outstanding. The two teachers at the school that we really see, the headmistress Faye Vaughn (Jackie Burroughs) and their long-suffering Maths teacher Eleanor Bannet (Mimi Kuzyk) may or may not be lovers. I liked that ambivalence, after all, it was not their story. Faye plays the strong teacher role, takes an interest in Paulie and refuses to give up, no matter how far her wild student pushes the boundaries of their friendship.

Faye provides yet another pair of eyes for us to see Paulie through; the older and world-weary woman envying (and encouraging) the passion and spirit of her young charge, while pitying her the pain and suffering she knows she cannot save her from. Mary has her own mentor, the strong and steady gardener Joe (Graham Greene), who helps keep her literally grounded as the events of her life swirl around her.

As Ani Difranco sings in an angst-ridden moment, Paulie's fight is like a bull in a china shop; destructive and unrelenting. Her entreaties to Tori are the epitome of bittersweet, funny but so deserately sad.

The Canadians are so good at these heartbreaking and beautiful stories. Pool doesn't shy away from showing intimacy where necessary, but not more than is necessary. She gets the simple things right. I believed in Paulie's love for Tori. The film would have flopped if that hadn't worked, as so many others have in the past.

Perhaps the symbolic nature of the script could have been handled with a touch more subtlety. Mary is the supporting and nurturing type who spends time in the garden digging and planting. Her purpose in the film is obviously to grow and flower. Paulie is the wild spirit who takes a wounded Raptor and teaches it to fly and hunt again, to spread its wings and fly to freedom, just like she wishes she could. Tori gets stuck in the middle of these two forces, unable to gather the courage to be herself, she's such a weakling that by the end one wonders if she was really worth fighting for in the first place.

Paulie's fight for Tori is also a fight for sexual and individual freedom, a battle against her own demons. Some people were angry or dismayed at the tragic ending, but I was too busy crying to notice. There was something so utterly sad-yet-satisfying about the Raptor as she tries desperately to fly to freedom, and fails as we know she must.

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