IT MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS OF THE LOST SONS!
Imagine you’re in your 50s and suddenly you discover that your whole identity is based on a lie. That is the tragic yet inspirational journey of Paul Joseph Fronczak, an extra in several films including Rush Hour and Ocean’s Eleven. He then starts exploring his heritage and allows that forensic science based on DNA findings determine where he came from and what who his real family is. But there’s another twist: who is the real Paul Fronczak and what happened to him? Premiering during this SXSW Film Festival, The Lost Sons is a masterfully crafted true crime documentary brought by visionary director Ursula Macfarlane.
As soon as The Lost Sons starts, we know we are in for an entertaining ride throughout one convoluted and twisted mystery, and are immediately thirsty to see how this particular case will unfold. Defined by a simplistic approach, The Lost Sons earns its artistic merit due to an amazing work of editing and storytelling that never comes up as linear or of easy solution. In 1964, a baby was kidnapped from a hospital in Chicago right after he was born, and the FBI is on the case to provide some closure to the desperate parents. Without any particular leads, the unsolved case went on for a couple of years, until a child was found in a baby stroller in the middle of the street in Newark, New Jersey. Could this be the kidnapped baby of the Fronczak family? The FBI certainly thought it was, and the Fronczak family took care of what was supposed to be their biological child. Years later, Paul finds some old newspaper clippings that reveal the sensational and unbelievable story of his apparent kidnapping, but it wasn’t until he was old enough that he decided to test his DNA to be sure this was really the truth. For his surprise, Paul isn’t really Paul. after the results arrived. His parents weren’t his biological parents. So that raises the questions: who am I and what happened to the real Paul Fronczak?
The Lost Sons begins deconstructing this mystery bit by bit, making the viewer a part of this unsettling case. This is not just a journey to find the truth, but also to finally being able to know and accept your true identity. Paul’s extraordinary and brave mission tells a lot about how and where we come from is important for us to understand ourselves and eliminating that discomfort of not feeling sure of who we are and why we are alive. Where do we ultimately belong if we are not sure about who to believe and who is really part of our bloodline? This is a tough question that The Lost Sons is able to answer in the most profound and attentive way, constantly exposing the feelings of a man in search for his origins without using sensationalist characters or biased opinions. And even with its central mystery being already an incredible trip down the road, we still have the real Paul to find out and know what happened to him. The documentary enters in very dangerous and uncertain terrains by focusing on two big cases and Macfarlane knows that teasing an audience and not providing answers is a risky attempt. By not making the public feeling baited to watch a whole film to reach dead end results, Macfarlane achieves greatness by gradually providing enthusiastically positive results, even if some answers are still on their way to be found. Unlike many who actually prefer baiting its audience, The Lost Sons is an extraordinary piece of investigative filmmaking that derails from the pretentious format of garnishing a story to make it sound more appealing by sensacionalism and melodrama and focuses on delivering a truthful and fact-based reality.
Macfarlen is a talented filmmaker in the field and The Lost Sons never turns a blind eye to the two main storylines that compose its narrative; and the truth prevails over the easy attempt of creating too much visual noise that is usually used to “impress” more than enhance the most profound identity doubts of the main character. The fact that The Lost Sons stays simple in its structure allows the twists to be even more effective, as we are constantly shocked with the amount of disruptive coincidences that make Paul’s search for his biological family even more difficult. Macfarlane knows how to provoke the audience by always staying side by side with Paul and capturing his most genuine emotions and reactions while he is unveiling his past. Documentary is an essential genre that makes the most fascinating real stories travel to all types of audiences around the world. Not every filmmaker knows how to stay balanced within the specific rules of presenting the information they have in their hands and not every director understands how to make these images touch the hearts of the viewers who are watching them, but Ursula Macfarlane is certainly one that managed to stay focused with Paul’s story without giving into the temptation of becoming a news piece more than a cinematic experience. Paul’s story is an intense, twisted and tragic tale that could resonate to each and every one of us. And that is the power that The Lost Sons has to offer.
One of the best presentations of the 2021 SXSW Film Festival so far, The Lost Sons is a tremendously extraordinary cinematic achievement and deserves to be seen by a wide audience who, not only is thisty for a real-life entretaining mystery, but also seeks a tale of humanity that is raw and filled with real and spontaneous emotion.
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Title: The Lost Sons
Original Title: The Lost Sons
Director: Ursula Macfarlane
Runtime: 85 min.
Trailer | The Lost Sons