Film Review

Ramaa Mosley’s Tatterdemalion aka Lost Child

It’s always fascinating to me when a film is subtly billed as horror, unfolds thusly with the ever present promise of ambiguity and then takes the road less expected to provide a truly surprising and unexpected experience. Ramaa Mosley’s Tatterdemalion, given the far less inspired title of ‘Lost Child’ for its streaming release, is a powerful story of loss, trauma, reconciliation and finding your path, a deeply heartfelt drama that’s kind of.. not necessarily disguised as a horror, but is very down to earth despite its ‘folk horror’ stylistics and slightly spooky mythological underpinning. It tells of Iraq war veteran Fern (Leven Rambin) who returns to her hometown deep in the heart of the Missouri Ozarks to a broken family and a broken life. She tries to mend a relationship with her volatile brother (Taylor John Smith) and strikes up tentative romance with a kindly social worker who moonlights as the local bartender (Jim Parrack) and begins to get her life on track. One day deep in the heart of the woods she finds a young boy named Cecil (Landon Edwards) wandering lost, with no ID, family or recollection of where he came from. She takes him in and pretty soon odd things start to happen; she finds her energy sapped, she feels sick, she discovers strange iconography fashioned from sticks adorning her property and soon the locals with an ancestral connection to the ancient Ozark legends lost to time warn her of ‘Tatterdemalion’, a soul vanquishing demon personified as a lost child who preys upon unsuspecting folks who take them in. Is Cecil a dangerous entity, or simply one of the countless forgotten, abused and neglected children who are out there trying to find a home? I mean there’s many reviews calling this an ‘anti-horror’ film which in itself already spoils the answer to this question, but I’ll try not to say more other than to iterate how emotionally mature, down to earth and compassionate this narrative is, strikingly brought to life with warmth, depth and empathy by the assured hand of director Mosley, the first of her work I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. Leven Rambin is an actress who also brought the character of Athena Bezzerides to life brilliantly in season 2 of True Detective and she is stunning here, embodying the lost child elements in her own life as she struggles to come to terms with a tragic family history and figure out who Cecil is and care for him at the same time. Shot on location in atmospheric rural Missouri, scored to elemental and orchestral perfection by David Baron and Chris Maxwell, this is a phenomenal sleeper gem that’s streaming on Canadian Prime and I would highly recommend it.

-Nate Hill

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