Woody Harrelson’s ambitious 2017 project Lost in London not only set out to live-stream an entire feature film across cinemas and oceans, but do so in one take. The one-shot film is a popular method of filmmaking for twenty-first century directors – works such as Birdman (dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2015) and Rope (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1948) have been impressing audiences for years now – but never before has it been pulled off live, without the use of editing. Acclaimed actor Woody Harrelson, against all odds, managed to make this breakthrough in the evolution of filmmaking, telling a comic tale of misevents around the – literally – buzzing city of London.
Harrelson plays himself at the centre of this experimental work of fictional realism. When his wife leaves him following some bad press, Harrelson’s night spirals into mayhem: fighting his best friend Owen Wilson at a hippie-themed party and getting arrested for breaking a taxi-cab’s ashtray. Harrelson’s journey is littered with light-hearted comedy and geared toward the film buffs of the world – not just because of the inventive camerawork, but the self-referential jabs and jokes at the film industry.
Although the whole 100 minutes is set in real-time (obviously), the pace never lags and every moment is maximized for the viewers entertainment. With an almost documentary-style of filming, Lost in London feels honest and realistic to everyday life; neutral dialogue and familiar settings allows viewers to connect to a Hollywood star’s life on a more personal level. The party scenes certainly don’t hold the same level of glamour and screen spectacle as, say, Warner Bros. The Great Gatsby (dir. Baz Luhrmann, 2013). Yet, being stripped of all post-production effects and grand studios makes you feel as if you’re really in the room – as if you really had strayed into a London bar and found Woody Harrelson pretending to get drunk with a Prince.
If the visual wizardry and unique ‘live’ aspect of Lost in London isn’t enough for you, Harrelson also presents a humorously self-mocking, oftentimes affectionate story. Despite its grandeur in terms of its mechanical accomplishments, London in London remains very personal; a handful of characters and local locations focuses the films energy on sympathizing with the audience. Filming took place at 2am on January 20th, 2017, and remains a real feat considering how arduous production was. With camera glitches, sound issues and London Bridge (a key location) being shut down an hour before shooting began, it’s a miracle Lost in London ever reached theatres.
Narratively, the film is no masterpiece, but a mad Texan’s thoroughly amusing dream-made-reality, successfully shot entirely in one take. What’s also crucial is that the live-stream flair is necessary to experience the film – Lost in London is equally enjoyable years later, now that the initial technical hubbub has deflated.
(Lost in London will be available to watch on Amazon from the 25th of September, 2020)