Lost Soulz Review: A Hip-Hop Musical Buoyed by Original Compositions from Its Talented Cast

An intriguing character-based musical that chronicles a few days in the life of an aspiring young rapper, “Lost Soulz” follows Sol (Sauve Sidle) as he navigates life on a road trip while making new friends. The film, from first-time feature writer-director Katherine Propper, won the second-place audience award at this month’s Tribeca Film Festival. Inspired by Sidle’s experience as a musician on the rise, “Lost Soulz” tells a raw personal story in a fragmented structure deriving its strength from the original music composed and performed by its talented cast.

Propper opens on Sol admiring his reflection in the mirror and murmuring to himself, “You are a superstar. Look at you.” Sidle proves believable as a big-dreams wannabe with an easy relaxed screen presence. Sol’s odyssey kicks off after his best friend Wesley overdoses at a party they were both attending. Though Sol was living with Wesley’s family, he abandons him and spontaneously accepts a group of hip-hop musicians’ invitation to tour Texas with them. The film becomes a road-trip narrative intercut with musical interludes.

“Lost Soulz” invites the audience to hang out with Sol and his new friends. It simply follows them as they travel — in a packed van, at gas stations, at campfires. Beyond Sol, however, these characters feel unshaped, perhaps because they’re younger people with still-unshaped personalities. Their interactions with each are full of easy camaraderie, as they take humorous jabs at one another. Though the revelations about the characters are simplistic, it seems that each of them only has one idea about themselves.

More poignant is Sol’s relationship with Wesley’s younger sister Jessie (Giovahnna Gabriel), an inquisitive child he keeps checking on from his trip. That relationship hints at his guilt over abandoning his friend, though the actors make much more of it, establishing it as a sweet relationship on its own.

“Lost Soulz” flows easily with a relaxed rhythm attuned to the rhythm of its characters’ conversations. It seems to be in no hurry to get anywhere or for this road trip to ever end. Though the film might feel aimless at times, it’s buoyed by scenes in which the musicians come together to rap and sing. The music is relaxed and soft, blending genres and showing the communal joy these characters get from creating art together.

Propper has an assured hand especially at choreographing the rap scenes. The hand-offs from one character to the other follow the lyrics and make the cumulative effect moving. Sometimes the film cuts to smartphone-style footage, showing the way these young artists record themselves, although leaning too heavily on that gimmick starts to get repetitive and lessens the enjoyment for anyone not watching the film on their phone. Doing that would lessen the impact of Donald Monroe’s gorgeous cinematography, with its yellow desert hues. Other choices, such as using split-screen, make “Lost Soulz” feel too much like a music video at times.

Buoyed by its charismatic lead performance, “Lost Soulz” makes for an entertaining ride. Its structure, cinematography and (especially) the choreography of musical scenes show the confidence of its first-time filmmaker. Propper, who counts fellow Texas-based filmmakers Terrence Malick and Richard Linklater among her influences, has a commanding feel for constructing narrative out of music. “Lost Soulz” makes for a successful calling card for her and Sidle’s burgeoning careers.

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