Lost Holiday is a film that feels inspired by California neo-noirs like The Big Lebowski and Inherent Vice but doesn’t have the style or direction necessary to pull that sort of absurdist nihilism off. This isn’t a movie that really seems to know what it’s about, and while it isn’t a terrible watch, it’s something of a vapid and immediately disposable one. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I just got through the end credits as of this writing, and I can already feel the film slipping away from me. Ask me in a week, and I’m not sure I could tell you the title of the film or any of the major beats that make up its paper-thin plot. I don’t so much feel like Lost Holiday was a waste of time as a diverting expenditure of seventy-seven minutes where I slipped into a world outside of time and I will never get those minutes back. I didn’t hate my time there, but I could have been doing other stuff, you know?
For what it’s worth, the plot of Lost Holiday follows a pair of New Yorkers, Margaret (Kate Lyn Sheil) and Henry (Thomas Matthews, who also co-wrote and co-directed the film with Michael Matthews), on vacation in Washington D.C. for the winter holidays. They hit up a local drug dealer, abandoning the friends they came to visit in the process in order to get high with strangers. While there, they learn that this dealer is the boyfriend of the wealthy daughter of a local land developer, so the pair recognizes her when she shows up on the news the next day declared missing. Rather than out themselves to the police as having been the dealer’s customers, they decide to investigate the disappearance themselves, and hijinks ensue.
Unfortunately, these hijinks have some pretty weak comic delivery, as the film is shot and edited like a mumblecore feature, so while it’s clear that physical comedy is happening in a given scene, it isn’t presented in a way that actually informs it being funny. Instead, the film turns into scene after scene of a pair of obnoxious buffoons fumbling from obvious clue to more obvious clue without any sense of heightened reality to inform the shenanigans. Some of this is a function of budgetary limitations, but a lot of it comes down to being a film that wants to be absurdist but is far too grounded in reality to get there.
And yes, Margaret and Henry are supposed to be childish, irresponsible adults that should have aged past this point of postponed adolescence, since that is the arc they undergo through their pursuit of this missing woman. But the film doesn’t quite settle on a tone in which to present this growth, leaning into the aforementioned faux comedy in some scenes and becoming introspective and melancholic in others. None of it gels together, and what you’re left with instead is a mush of tropes and tedium that doesn’t amount to anything new, novel, or interesting.
If it sounds like I’m being hard on Lost Holiday, know that it isn’t because I actually have any ill-will toward the film or the filmmakers. There’s clearly a lot of effort that went into this low budget flick aimed at the festival circuit, but there’s just not a lot here to recommend it. I will say that Sheil and Matthews give fine performances for what material they’re working with, but there’s nothing about the experience that I’m going to bother remembering once the last word of this review is written. It’s a failed experiment, well-intentioned and not without potential talent, but so bland and forgettable that it serves better as an overlong resume of directorial competence than a full feature film. Sorry, but I’ve already moved on.