Plenty of actors move into directing at some point in their career, it’s a natural move having taken direction and plenty make that transition successfully. However, the vast majority start out on something small, intimate and personal. A passion project, or an opportune piece of work that speaks to their character. However, that sort of normal trajectory is what your average run of the mill actor might undertake, and as we all know Woody Harrelson is anything but average. In a career of risks, some that paid off and some that crashed and burned, Harrelson has always been a maverick, so it stands to reason that his directorial debut would be something particularly wild, and Lost in London certainly ticks that box. Or at least the concept certainly does.
Based on a true story from his time treading the boards in the West End, Lost in London follows Woody Harrelson (playing himself) on a very eventful night in Central London as he finds himself in a series of situations that include a near separation from his wife, an arrest and some time in jail, and some interactions with some pretty famous friends. Of course, it’s not that simple, and the film was all done in one shot, live to an audience of cinemas around the country.
From a technical perspective, Lost in London is a marvel. The sheer scale of Harrelson’s ambition is plain to see, and while it’s not perfect (there are a few moments where the sound design doesn’t quite work, and the lighting doesn’t do the set dressing justice) the rough and ready elements add a certain charm to proceedings. Harrelson himself is very convincing, probably because he lived it, and puts in a very enjoyable performance. The supporting performances of Owen Wilson, as well as the contributions of Daniel Radcliffe and Bono among others add an air of authenticity and fun to proceedings. It’s a wild ride, and you feel like you are along for the experience right there with Harrelson. It’s dark, self-deprecating, funny and actually quite moving in places.
Lost in London won’t be for everyone. It’s not a polished masterpiece, and the plot will be a little simplistic for some. For me, Woody Harrelson has done something truly remarkable with this film, showing ambition and an eye as a director that marks him out as someone as unpredictable and exciting behind the camera as he is in front of it. Watched within the intended context in which it was made, Lost in London is something very special indeed.