Crime mystery “Lost Angel” feels like one of those made-for-TV movies you’d catch on the weekends before the streaming era; they were always mildly enjoyed, and you never managed to learn the names of them. They were a welcome distraction when you had little else to do, but they were made with enough heart and creativity for you to willingly compromise your time. The British-made “Lost Angel” follows a comfortingly similar pattern to hundreds of other small-budget thrillers but can get lost among them, too.
“Lost Angel” begins with twentysomething Lisa Hills (Sascha Harman), who is grieving the recent loss of her sister, Melanie. Investigators conclude that Melanie committed suicide by overdosing on heroin, but as with any amateur sleuth at the start of a thriller, Lisa isn’t satisfied with that explanation. The circumstances surrounding her death are murky, and Lisa finds strange notes in her diary. When Lisa visits her late sister’s apartment, she’s accosted by three threatening, hulking men, who artlessly reveal Melanie was hired for “a job” before her death. There are enough red flags thrown around for Lisa to question her sister’s death, but she doesn’t have anything to go off of. In fact, the beginning of the film feels much like waiting for the plot to get going.
As we do, “Lost Angel” unpredictably pivots. At work, Lisa meets a man her age, Rich Van der Euer (Fintan Shevlin), whom she immediately befriends, and they spend all hours of her night shift chatting. We soon find out, a few scenes later, that Rich is actually dead. Yes, Rich’s character is a ghost. For a moment, it seems as if this is suddenly a very different type of movie, maybe even a paranormal comedy, but one can quickly admire the quirk in what is otherwise meant to be a serious mystery. Rich effectively becomes Lisa’s sidekick, and their rapport provides flavor in the movie’s many dry investigative scenes. Their relationship provides the film’s heartfelt moments and is sweet enough to make one ponder the sad thought if sometimes our destined soulmates might already be dead.
But Rich serves a better purpose; he gives Lisa her first clue, which then leads her to another one, and so forth. Lisa’s entire investigation takes place in her non-illustrious hometown in fictional Newpoint Island. She’s met with corrupt public officials, local companies engaged in shady behavior, and mysterious men following her throughout. “Lost Angel” is probably billed as a thriller or suspense, but you’re rarely at the edge of your seat. The most heart-thumping, traditional thriller scene plays like a cliché: Lisa takes too long stealing information from the office of a potential killer, just as that killer is walking up the stairs to his office, with camera shots rapidly switching between the two. And just as the killer opens his door, you realize the protagonist has already escaped.
The scandal and coverup behind Melanie’s death—defective medicine being resold at profit to impoverished countries—feels arbitrarily devised, but it might hint at once loftier story expectations: an exposé of pharmaceutical crimes by a jilted journalist methodically making her comeback, instead of an aimless girl who talks to ghosts. Alas, the final product falls short, but we can still enjoy the creativity.