In an unspecified post-apocalyptic wasteland, a man named Lorne has set up his existence on the edge of a great wilderness, hiding out from what the world has become. When he encounters a stranger who stumbles upon his camp, the ensuing conversation reveals just how isolated Lorne is, and what the psychological costs of such isolation are.
Director Jesse Leaman — along with co-writer Taylor Adams — has crafted a philosophically engaged dramatic short that tackles an intense, heavy subject: the very nature of existence and what it means to be human, confronting both death and loneliness in a brutal world. Shot strictly from the POV of a silent stranger who wanders upon Lorne’s encampment, the narrative essentially focuses on a monologue delivered by a troubled, isolated character so removed from other humans that his solitude has indelibly changed his sense of self and others.
This monologue is delivered by renowned Australian actor and “L.A. Confidential” and “Memento” star Guy Pearce, who leverages both his innate movie-star screen charisma and his pliable, supple transformative abilities as a character actor, delivering a powerhouse of a performance.
As the only human presence we see on screen, he commands attention with a strong presence. And as the mercurial Lorne, he penetrates into the character’s peculiar, off-kilter psychology, hitting upon a precise mix of aggression, agitation and loneliness. The dynamic characterization is calibrated to be both subtle and illuminating the more he talks, revealing just how his perspective and processing are as gnarled as the woods around him.
We don’t get many glimpses of the world Lorne inhabits, both physically and mentally. But the glimpses we do get are evocative, thanks to the bleakly moody cinematography, with its muted, painterly colors and camerawork. The visuals constantly emphasize both Lorne’s aloneness within the wider world, as well as the slightly warped, worn camp he occupies in the bush. The extremes seem to paint as much a picture of Lorne’s state of mind as the textured writing, making for an intriguing character piece with just enough world-building to contextualize his isolation.
“Lorne” is less a narrative than a snapshot, but it’s a portrait that delves deep into thorny, knotty territory. Through its absence of relationships — we never do see the stranger that Lorne talks to, and perhaps we’re meant to doubt that they really exist — the story asks just how much we need other people to make sense of ourselves, and to give meaning to our lives.
If Lorne died and no one remembers him or witnessed anything of his existence, what was his life’s meaning? The question is as much a Zen koan as it is a philosophical inquiry, and the lack of concrete answers hangs uneasily like the fogs shrouding the landscape that Lorne hides himself within, the indeterminacy haunting both him and the film’s viewers.