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HOT DOCS 2020

Review: A Loss of Something Ever Felt

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- The dark reality of drug addiction and the complexity of familial ties are explored in Carlos E Lesmes’ moving documentary

Review: A Loss of Something Ever Felt

There is a moment in the Estonian-Colombian-Swedish co-production A Loss of Something Ever Felt [+see also:
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when the main protagonist, Eeva, reflects on the fact that maybe – just maybe – she and her half-brother weren’t really friends. It’s a bitterly ironic revelation, coming as Eeva doggedly continues to search for her missing brother who has vanished in the throes of a crippling drug habit. While the documentary directed by Tallinn-based, Colombian-born Carlos E Lesmes is a stark examination of the destructive force of addiction, it is also a raw and honest exploration of the nature of family, and the push and pull of relationships initially defined by blood. The film was selected in the World Showcase section of Hot Docs and will screen to Canadian audiences from 28 May on the festival’s online platform.

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Eeva and her husband travel from Estonia to Colombia’s capital of Bogotá, initially at the behest of Eeva’s mother, Hille. They’re there to find Eeva’s brother Lauri, a man with a grimly familiar story: one of drug addiction, stints in prison, stabs at sobriety and tragic relapses. It’s been six months since he was last heard of, asking his mother for money whilst promising that things would get better. Now Eeva must scour an unfamiliar land, a city with almost seven times the population of her entire country. But as she searches the underbelly of a place that seems to contain nothing but chaos and despair, she must also examine the complex relationships between her and her family.

Hope and despair ripple through A Loss of Something Ever Felt like waves on a beach. A possible sighting of Lauri here. A mention there. And then the inevitable disappointment. The wrong person. The dead end. With the handheld urgency in Colombia – as opposed to the more calm and static nature of the scenes in Estonia – the film effectively conveys the enormity of Eeva’s task. As she searches through the streets, seeing the areas of homelessness and decay, and row upon row of damaged people, there’s a sense of the overwhelming, of a person forced into dealing with something that they can’t quite understand.

But for all its air of tragedy, there are some underlying glimpses of hope. As mentioned, Eeva ponders her complex relationship with her brother, wondering if they were ever truly close. But she still pushes on, a symbol of human strength – and a paean to family love – even when faced with terrible realities. Similarly, while the toll of drug addiction is shown in unflinching detail, an encounter at a rehab centre promises some sort of escape for a select few. Even the end promises something of a catharsis in the face of tragedy.

A Loss of Something Ever Felt – sharing its title with a poem by Emily Dickinson which deals with youth and understanding death – is an intense and moving piece of work shot with urgency by Lesmes (who often appears in the film himself, helping with Eeva’s search). While it is often unflinchingly tragic, it still shows something magnificent about the human spirit, even when faced with the most terrible of circumstances. It should secure itself a healthy festival run (current coronavirus situation notwithstanding) thanks to its timely and human story.

The film was produced by Estonian outfit Alasti Kino, and co-produced by Colombia's Vice Versa Cine and Sweden's Little Black Fish.

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