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First Look Review - THE FOREST OF THE LOST SOULS

THE FOREST OF THE LOST SOULS review
Two strangers have a chance encounter in a forest where they had planned to commit suicide.






Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: José Pedro Lopes

Starring: Daniela Love, Jorge Mota, Mafalda Banquart, Lígia Roque, Lília Lopes

THE FOREST OF THE LOST SOULS poster

There’s a voiceover in the opening darkness - a woman is citing famous scholarly quotes on suicide.

Next we enter a forest where another young woman is seen idly kicking rocks and wandering the woods before her own drowning suicide.

It’s in black and white, and in Portuguese.

I’m intrigued already.

THE FOREST OF THE LOST SOULS review

After the credits, a man with a backpack is seen seated in the same forest. He sees a burnt and hanged barbie doll, which disturbs him, and then he notices a sign helpfully scratched onto the mud pointing a direction for ‘suicides’.

He follows on and then plonks himself down, takes out a big knife, and is interrupted by a woman declaring it's her spot.

“It’s a big forest,” she indignantly points out, so why did he pick her place?

He taunts her for being too young for suicide and she insults his choice of weapon. It seems she’s quite the expert at the old ‘preparing for suicide’ jig; this is something she has researched and perfected after many an afternoon spent in the eponymous forest.

Her name is Carolina, his Ricardo.

And one of them holds a deadly secret.

The interplay between them is natural and believable.

She recommends the book ‘A long way down’ by Nick Hornby.

He seems amused by her.

She doubts his conviction due to the absence of a suicide note.

He laments his lack of pen, but luckily she’s prepared and lends him a pen and paper.

They team up to walk off his blue mood in the forest of souls as she says “you shouldn’t kill yourself with a heavy heart.”

They meander and see several dead bodies before eventually ending up by the river where he says his daughter ended her own life, and his failure to save her or support his family after her death is why he needs to die now.

THE FOREST OF THE LOST SOULS review

After a not entirely believable death, we move to a new story.

There’s a young girl sitting on the edge of a bridge. She receives a text from her dad that reads "sadness doesn’t last forever." She contemplates this before walking home with her friend Tiago.

Her name is Filipa and she’s the surviving daughter of Ricardo, the man we’d seen earlier.

Once home, we meet her alcoholic mother and see that there’s a shrine to the drowned daughter in the house. It's sad to watch them, knowing how much heartache is coming their way. But then things change again and what was a contemplative movie about suicide becomes a stalker/slasher movie with an inventive twist I didn’t see coming; and a sweet little sting in its tail.

To say this is a film of two halves is almost an understatement. The tone changes radically for the latter part and your enjoyment of the movie as a whole is highly dependant on your acceptance of this.

For the most part, I didn’t find it too jarring and appreciated the meshing of two sub-genres.

THE FOREST OF THE LOST SOULS review

Beautifully written and directed by José Pedro Lopes, the lush black and white images add to the austerity, the bleakness shot through with bursts of humanity.

The acting is also to be praised, with Jorge Mota as Ricardo believably broken, and a star-making turn by Daniela Love as the complicated Carolina are standouts.

Lean and succinct, the second half of this 71 minute film is creepy and goes where you think it won’t, which is something I value in horror.

It seems a bizarre thing to say, but this is a surprisingly enjoyable film about suicide.

With a clear-eyed view of how life can be both a blessing and a curse, it’s always interesting; and even those who think they have given up still have something worth fighting for.



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