Director Brian Lawes gives us a vivid insight into middle American life in Lost Kings. Only 16 mins long, but this quarter-hour is filled with intrigue, empathy and understanding.

    Leading actor Dash Melrose plays Zuri, a young man, possibly in his late teens, living in a suburban town. He lives with and looks after his younger brother and from the very first scene, we can see that things aren’t too financially secure at home. A quick check in the kitchen reveals there is literally no food in the house, just some crumbs left in the last cereal box. Big brother is quick to leave to remedy this situation. The fact that he instructs his younger “bro” not to leave the house under any circumstance, gives us a strong indication that he’ll be left alone in the house for quite some time.

    Searching for food, a boy breaks into a house. But when the owners return, he becomes trapped inside with those he’s stealing from.

    Backpack equipped, Zuri comes to a local grocery store, with the aim of filling up the bag with what he can before slipping out unnoticed. Clearly, he’s not a thieving pro: he stutters, freezes and second-guesses in every motion, to the point the shopkeeper has to question if he’s ok or may need any assistance. This prompts him to rush out in a hurry.

    As our big brother cycles through the streets mulling over his next move, we catch glimpses of the town and the surrounding housing. Here, we notice that is a quiet, clean, better-off side of town. Watching this scene, I asked myself how vast a gulf in class there could be in such an obviously more affluent neighbourhood. Maybe these boys could have parents heavily into drugs or not at all present. Who knows?

    Jo Ashley and Cassie Self play the daughter and mother living in the house where Dash Melrose (Zuri) gets trapped.

    We watch our protagonist steadily cycling through until he spots an opportunity, one that gets him into a jammy predicament and will be almost impossible to leave completely uncompromised.

    Lost Kings effectively convey the heart-pounding experience of trying to evade capture together with the anxiety felt by a boy forced to take the responsibilities of an adult and provide for his younger brother, under circumstances that force him to go down a questionable path.

    Superbly directed by Lawes, Dash Melrose impresses with a surprisingly mature performance.

    After watching the film, I took part in a zoom meeting involving director Brian Lawes, producer Amanda Hayden, Jo Ashley Moore (who plays the daughter) and the leading actor, Dash Melrose. Dash shared certain techniques he used in order to transmit his mind and spirit into a character who has to resort to extreme measures to survive, while Brian involved us in the challenges he faced while directing and instructing a team of predominantly younger actors. It was particularly interesting to listen to Dash and Jo Ashley reasoning and discussing work strategies and theories, as well as past work experiences.

    This is an excellent short film that I fully recommend. The suspense and emotional anxiety that expresses will keep you at the edge of your seat and probably make you shed a tear or two at the end.

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