In Lost Transmissions, aspiring songwriter Hannah meets Theo, an established music producer with an infectiously joyous spirit. But just as their friendship and creative partnership are taking off, Theo suddenly changes. When Theo’s condition worsens and he starts alienating colleagues in the insular L.A. music scene, Hannah sticks by him, determined to keep him from throwing away his career—and his life.

We are delighted that writer-director Katharine O'Brien will join us for a live discussion on Zoom at 8.30pm on Thursday 2 July, with BSL interpretation available. Register for your place here.

Lost Transmissions was available to rent on this page until 6pm on Friday 3 July.

Programme Notes

In Lost Transmissions, Simon Pegg gives a beautifully restrained performance as Theo, a successful musician living in Hollywood with a history of schizophrenia. Released in the UK on the same date that this online SMHAF screening launches, Katharine O’Brien’s debut film is an sensitive portrayal of mental illness that uses its profile to raise awareness about the challenges people face in accessing support.

Lost Transmissions opens at a party, where Theo strikes up a friendship with Hannah – an emerging songwriter played by Juno Temple – over a duet of Daniel Johnston’s True Love Will Find You In The End. Their relationship develops as Theo invites Hannah to his home studio, hoping to persuade her to find her voice as a singer, but Hannah quickly finds herself in a supportive role as Theo has a relapse.

Based on real events from the director’s life, Lost Transmissions serves as a critique of the US mental healthcare system, highlighting the frustration encountered by people who are sincerely trying to get the right treatment, whether for themselves or the people they care for. As the plot develops, it also draws attention to the stark inequalities in LA society, showing the ease with which people with mental health problems can find themselves facing financial difficulty, social isolation and homelessness, in most cases through no fault of their own.

Failed by the system, Theo’s hopes for recovery ultimately lie in the support network he has around him. Hannah, who is going through her own struggles with depression and anxiety, perseveres in finding increasingly unorthodox ways to help him, even after their personal relationship has broken down. Steering clear of neat conclusions, Lost Transmissions handles a challenging subject with care and empathy.