A film about a psychically wounded vet reluctantly bonding with a child may sound like something you’ve seen before, but you haven’t seen “Lost Child.” Directed by Ramaa Mosley from a script she wrote with Tim Macy, the slow-burning thriller walks a fine line, balancing elements of psychological drama and the supernatural, with a surging undercurrent of social commentary that sneaks up on you.
In a breakout performance, Leven Rambin stars as Fern Sreaves, a recently discharged soldier returning home to the Ozarks following the death of her addict father. She’s looking for her brother Billy, whom she hasn’t seen since she ran away as a child, and instead finds a little boy named Cecil (Landon Edwards) all alone in the woods.
Suffering from PTSD with no plans for sticking around once she connects with Billy, Fern fends off the suggestions of a helpful social worker (Jim Parrack) that she keep Cecil for more than a few days. Fern’s desire to stay disconnected from everyone and everything conflicts with the horrors she knows await Cecil in the foster care system.
The film’s largely naturalistic style and Fern’s fervent nonbeliever stance provide fertile context for the regional stories of a tatterdemalion — a demon child — to get under your skin (and hers), leading to a breathless final 30 minutes. Gently adjusting the tension throughout, Mosley knows exactly when to turn up the flame and make a point in the process.
Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes