Indie Review: Don Swanson’s ‘What Was Lost’ (2014)

+ Recommended – NR, Short, Drama (24 minutes)


A professor sets out on a quest to uncover a manuscript that has been lost to the wind. Through his journey, he learns that opportunity costs more than he thought. He loses what is most important to him, but was it all worth it? 

Director Don Swanson (A Wish for Giants) had been working on the film for years before the 2014 premiere at the Manhattan Film Festival. It wasn’t until a Kickstarter campaign was created, that the film raised $10,000 dollars over a 30 day period to begin production. What Was Lost proves that finishing a dream project is in the realm of reality. A passion project should never be given up on. 

John-Patrick Driscoll propels the film with a powerful lead performance. His character, Joel, might have appeared one-dimensional without Driscoll breathing life into him. There simply isn’t enough time to fully sympathize with Joel, even in the circumstances surrounding him. Never do we get to experience the events leading to this moment in time and that interferes with the amount of emotional resonance to the situation he is in. 

Muted colors work, however, the grading works opposite of the story. If a realistic approach was taken, then the colors needed to feel lively. Instead, everything from vegetation to the backdrop seems dull. Swanson’s knack for camera placement lead to a few intriguing shots, adding an interesting aspect to a lackluster setting. Justin Ellington‘s original score also counters the lack of life, by inserting composition that truly feels and sounds human.

Another aspect that desperately needed to be cut, was the unnecessary humor. While the drama was firing on all cylinders, and was engaging, the comedy bits were swinging, but missing with every shot; they felt out of place. Fortunately, this was [mostly] limited to scenes with Anderson (Dustin Kyle) and the wife plot. Kyle didn’t miss a beat, but the comedy didn’t blend well with the drama of the cheating-wife. 

That’s not to say the ending isn’t powerful. Because oh boy, by the time the credits were rolling, did I take one big deep breath. The 20 minutes leading up to the pivotal moment weren’t wasted in the slightest. If you have time, What Was Lost is available on Amazon Prime. I urge you to watch this solid, little indie flick at your convenience. 

Image via Spruce Films

Author: Jared Charles

I am the owner of The Burrow Reviews. Currently studying Film, English, Political Science, and Gender Studies.

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