The Forest of the Lost Souls is a wild movie. I went into not knowing what to expect and it threw me for a loop. And that’s not an expression I regularly use but I feel like it’s extremely fitting for this movie. This movie messed with me, man. It basically tricked me into lowering my defenses and then punched me in the face.
Before going too far into this review I have to make it clear that I can’t really say a whole lot about the film. I debated just giving a spoiler alert and then reveal all the details down below but that’s no fun. You have to watch this movie not knowing what to expect, at least not the specifics. As a result, I have to be pretty vague in my review, so I’ll do the best that I can. Here we go!
Ricardo (Jorge Mota) is a middle-aged man that has hit his breaking point. He’s done with life and doesn’t feel like he can go on any further. He has a wife and teenage daughter but rather than viewing them as a reason to live he sees himself as a burden on their lives. Ricardo views himself as a disappointment and letdown. To ease his pain Ricardo heads out to a dense forest that is known as a place where people go to commit suicide — The Forest of the Lost Souls.
Ricardo has everything planned out. He’s going to search the forest for the perfect place to get settled, lay down and get comfy and then stab himself. As he’s searching through the forest for the right spot he hits one little snag when he encounters Carolina (Daniela Love). Carolina is a young girl — roughly the same as Ricardo’s daughter, somewhere in her late teens or early 20’s — and she too plans to her end own life within the forest.
This isn’t Carolina’s first trip to the forest. She’s gone to the forest plenty of times in the past and watched others as they ultimately ended their journey. She doesn’t believe Ricardo is actually ready or willing to kill himself. Ricardo tries to argue otherwise but Carolina has spent enough time in the forest to know better. She begins to question Ricardo — have you written a note? How are you going to do it? A knife? Have you considered how painful that will be?
Ricardo doesn’t have a note nor has he considered how difficult it would be to actually stab himself in he stomach. He begins to question his decision. Is he sure he wants to die? Is this how he wants it all to end? Even more troubling to him is the fact that Carolina in the forest. She’s so young and has so much life ahead of her, why would she want to die?
The two eventually start to bond as they walk through the forest, talking more. Carolina gives Ricardo some pen and paper so he can leave a note and offers him some poison to make the death less painful. Meanwhile, Ricardo desperately tries to convince Carolina that she’s making a mistake. He believes that whatever is troubling Carolina isn’t worth her life and that she should leave the forest. Just as Ricardo feels as if though he may be getting through to Carolina things take an unexpected turn. Turns out Carolina isn’t exactly as she seems.
I so desperately want to be able to say what happens next. It’s such a shocking shift that occurs just beyond the halfway point of the film that sends the viewer on an emotional rollercoaster. But to give any details would completely ruin the movie. It must be seen and experienced.
The Forest of the Lost Souls is the first feature from Portuguese director José Pedro Lopes and it’s stunning from start to finish. The film is paced particularly well which is impressive given the abrupt turn it takes. It catches you off guard but doesn’t feel misplaced. I think Lopes deserves a lot of credit for pulling this off so effectively.
Director of photography Francisco Lobo is also extremely deserving of praise for how beautifully the film is shot. This is a film that I think could be a bit divisive. Some will love it and others will hate it, but one thing I think everyone should be able to agree on is that it looks incredible. The film being in black and white almost creates a calming atmosphere that eases you into the film and sort of makes you feel safe while discussing a topic that is quite difficult.
I love The Forest of the Lost Souls and think everyone should check it out. Hands down, one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. Again, I don’t think everyone will like it, but it’s worth your time. But be warned, if you’re getting into it and enjoying it, it might mess you up some.
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