Your typical coming-of-age film is about a young person who needs help finding themselves, and the journey that they take to get there. Your typical coming-of-age film is about evolution of character, and rewards the audience with a happily-ever-after for our troubles. Lost & Delirious is not your typical coming-of-age story. It’s a story about trying to be yourself and getting lost in a world which wants you to be anything but who and what you are.
Based loosely on The Wives of Bath by Susan Swan, Lost & Delirious is a first-person third-person account of the sort of trauma that can change a person forever. Mary Bedford (Mischa Barton), better known as “Mouse” is sent by her father and stepmother to an all-girls boarding school, where she is quickly befriended by her new roommates, Pauline “Paulie” (Piper Perabo) and Victoria “Tori” (Jessica Pare). Mary then quickly realizes that Paulie and Tori are more than just friends, and as the three girls open up to one another more and they realize that Mary is trustworthy, Paulie and Tori progress from stolen kisses to full-blown displays of affection in front of her. For the first time in her life, Mary has real friends, but these newfound friendships are soon put to the test.
When Paulie and Tori’s relationship is accidentally exposed, Tori does “damage control” in the form of even more damage, by starting rumours that Paulie has an unrequited crush, and with the help of her sister, Allison (Emily VanCamp), Tori manages to escape the scandal unscathed, but successfully isolates a heartbroken Paulie from their homophobic classmates. To further quell any lingering suspicions that she likes girls, Tori also starts dating a boy from the nearby boys boarding school, a relationship which sends Paulie into a deep depression. Mary, the only person besides the two of them who knows the truth, and a trusted ally to both girls, becomes a safe space for each as they vent their frustrations, longings, pain, and fear to her, all secrets which Mary guards closely.
All three girls have incredibly fractured relationships with their parents, which dictates how they respond to the world around them. Mary, who lost her mother to cancer, feels abandoned by her father and therefore wants to be there for her new friends, to be of service, especially the vividly hurting Paulie. Tori, the golden girl of deeply conservative, values the unconditional love that they are incapable of giving her above all else, and Paulie, an adoptee, feels unwanted by both her biological and adoptive parents. Watching these three collide as they try to gain from one another and give to one another the affection and acceptance that they’ve never gotten anywhere else is deeply moving.
Lost & Delirious is beautifully melancholy, evoking the same sort of nostalgia as a piece of music whose melody you can’t quite remember. Though a bit convoluted in some areas, the performances by the leads are incredible, with Perabo being nothing short of breathtaking. There is a raw earnestness in all of her monologues, her character the epitome of loss and teen angst. We want the best for these girls, and for me, it was possible to empathize with all three of them. But if Lost & Delirious taught me anything, it’s that coming-of-age can often be a matter of shutting out the voices of those who would seek to control you, and that true growth comes from unshackling yourself from the weight of other people’s opinions and expectations.
I give this one 4.5 stars.