As Jasper, the narrator and protagonist of “The Lost Coast,” begins to describe the events of Halloween night, he says, “We found a dead body — but more on that later.” You know it’s an eventful night when discovering a corpse isn’t even the lead story.
In this moody, occasionally dreamlike drama, it’s not what happens to Jasper and his friends that’s important so much as what happens within Jasper’s soul. Yes, most of the drama here is internal, and while writer/director Gabriel Fleming falls prey to some of the missteps typical of new filmmakers, he gets a lot right, too, with a lot of emotional insight.
The film is constructed around an e-mail that twentysomething Jasper (Ian Scott McGregor) is writing to his fiancee overseas in which he explains what happened the previous night. We gather from his tone that the events were of some importance, and the fact that it was Halloween in San Francisco — one of the most raucous nights in a raucous city — suggests there may have been shenanigans (if you know what I mean).
Jasper spends the evening with Mark (Lucas Alifano) and Lily (Lindsay Benner), his friends since high school. Mark and Lily dated back then, back when Mark was still “straight”; now he’s outgoing, frivolous, and gay, the kind of guy who will go to a costume party dressed as a flasher and confidently hit on the host.
Jasper is not as confident as his best friend, nor is he as certain of his own identity. The two boys did some fooling around back in high school, presaging Mark’s open homosexuality and Jasper’s muddled confusion. He’s straight, and he loves his fiancee … but what about Mark? What did it mean, if anything? How does it reflect on the dynamics of their friendship now?
All of this is brought to a head by Caleb (Chris Yule), Mark’s troublemaker friend who learns of Mark and Jasper’s scandalous past and then makes the mistake of mentioning it to Jasper. As the four trudge through San Francisco in search of Ecstasy (which Jasper has tried to arrange by calling a flighty guy he met once at a party), their feelings for one another come to light.
Jasper and Mark both have interesting stories — the straight guy who might have some gay leanings; the gay guy who might have feelings for his straight best friend — and you could make a good film from either point of view. Fleming tries to cover both of them, even cheating at one point by including a scene with just Mark and Lily even though the story is supposed to be told solely through Jasper’s eyes. Both characters ought to be fleshed out a little to give them the right dramatic weight. The film’s only 74 minutes long, for crying out loud! Go ahead and take the time to explore their psyches a bit more.
I do like the understated performances by McGregor and Alifano, though. Neither actor resorts to the simple stereotypes that lesser actors might have used, and their dedication to presenting real, relatable characters is a boon to the film. “The Lost Coast” has elements of the “mumblecore” movement and of the overplayed gay-coming-of-age genre; thankfully, it’s not as derivative as those labels would suggest.
B (1 hr., 14 min.; )