Back in the day when pop recording artists could still score hits with songs complaining about the music industry, Shawn Mullins, in the 1998 hit “Lullaby,” observed of Los Angeles, “It’s like Nashville with a tan.” But the troubadours and orchestrators inhabiting the L.A. drama “Lost Transmissions” are so inundated with and insulated by their life challenges that they’re as ashen as Siberian exiles.
Written and directed by (and based on some life experiences of) Katherine O’Brien, the movie, available on demand, stars Juno Temple as Hannah, a disaffected singer-songwriter lifted by the encouragement of Theo (Simon Pegg), a successful producer. Both characters take medication to treat illnesses, and early in the movie Theo expresses frustration: “I just think it’s a shame to live life with a filter over it.” Theo has schizophrenia, and once he stops taking his meds, what’s beneath the filter is a paranoid raver obsessed with a woman he calls “The Queen of Time.”
Hannah wants to help, but her strategies, combined with the routine atrocities of the health care system, make it difficult. In despair, she goes off her medications too. Her pursuit of Theo drags her through a world of wannabes and hangers-on and jeopardizes her collaboration with a pop star (Alexandra Daddario) whose dippy facade doesn’t quite conceal her calculating nature.
Los Angeles, as rendered by the cinematographer Arnau Valls Colomer, is a dun-tinged hellhole that’s maybe a little overdetermined in the misery department. The movie’s strongest feature is its depiction of a male-female friendship that matter-of-factly abjures any romantic component. Temple and Pegg, when their characters aren’t falling apart (and even sometimes when they are), convey intelligence and mutual regard with refreshing straightforwardness.