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2021 SXSW Film Festival Review – The Lost Sons

The Misplaced Sons, 2021.

Directed by Ursula Macfarlane.



Sixties Chicago, a child is kidnapped from a hospital. Fifteen months later, a toddler is deserted. May he be the identical child?


Ursula Macfarlane’s (Untouchable) new documentary definitely doesn’t depart viewers wanting for scandal, but its intertwined tableau of tales and identities additionally feels worthy of a bigger, extra bold canvas than a mere movie can assist.

In 1964 Chicago, new child child Paul Fronczak was kidnapped from the hospital of his delivery by a girl pretending to be a nurse. Regardless of the fast media circus, Paul’s path shortly went chilly till 1966, when a toddler was discovered deserted in New Jersey, believed to be the kidnapped toddler. With out the advantage of DNA testing, Paul’s mother and father Chester and Dora Fronczak have been left to conclude for themselves that this boy needed to be Paul, and took him dwelling as their very own.

Whereas on one hand self-deception is a particularly highly effective pressure, it’s clear at present that the FBI inspired the Fronczaks to just accept the boy as their son, amid the organisation’s personal need to neatly sew up a case of huge public curiosity. Realizing what we do now, it speaks to humanity’s normal need for a fast decision to unspeakable tragedy, slightly than resist the extra discomforting fact.

Within the doc’s opening moments, a middle-aged man introduces himself as Paul Fronczak, earlier than including, “Who am I?” As a toddler Paul knew little of being kidnapped, but as a younger man appeared acutely conscious that one thing was off together with his life, that he was in pursuit of a lacking piece. The reality, which solely got here to him when he himself turned a father in more moderen years, and was confirmed by a DNA take a look at, is that he isn’t the actual Paul Fronczak in any respect.

It goes with out saying that such a revelation would upend anybody’s well-cemented sense of identification, and in Paul’s case his very concept of self – his identify and birthday, for starters – don’t belong to him. To say that Paul’s highway in direction of closure is an uneasy one is a colossal understatement, and past himself, this data raises many extra questions – how does he clarify this to the individuals who raised him, and maybe extra pressingly, what the hell occurred to the actual Paul?


What follows is an interesting story of obsession, as the person launched to us as Paul makes an attempt to resolve a number of mysteries which may in of themselves fill a single function movie documentary. And although it’s straightforward to see the cheesy, sensationalist potential of a narrative like this unfurled in documentary kind, Macfarlane retains issues respectful and pointed, doling the thriller out in more-or-less chronological style with out extreme narrative re-jigging for the sake of what-a-twist shock moments.

The content material is actually beautiful sufficient that such methods are completely pointless. As Paul makes an attempt to dig deeper into the thriller of his personal abandonment, he’s aided by a group of genealogists who endeavour to untangle his genetic tree and uncover his parentage. With the dwelling genetic leads being whittled down by the ever-moving passage of time, the clock is at all times ticking.

That is actually the purpose at which the doc would’ve merited a extra long-form supply vessel, as the online of Paul’s ancestry is pulled again to disclose the tragic tales of many different folks. Furthermore, when sudden solutions arrive for one of many main mysteries, it feels rushed by way of with weird expediency, robbing it of some influence within the course of. You’re barely capable of wrap your head round one rug-pull earlier than one other is thrown at you – such is the limitation of a feature-length movie.

However it doesn’t matter what form this documentary takes, the story is, all in all, left upsettingly unfinished, with two important threads left stingingly hanging, each cloistered behind the spectres of the deceased who clearly weren’t a lot eager to offer particulars.

Although definitely outrageous and stunning sufficient to fascinate true crime fanatics, Macfarlane deserves credit score for her matter-of-fact remedy of a case ripe for a extra tactless strategy, even when the frenzied tempo additionally feels to the story’s detriment total.

A heartbreaking stranger-than-fiction documentary which strains to cram a miniseries’ price of investigations, revelations, and unanswered questions into 98 minutes.

Flickering Delusion Ranking – Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Film: ★ ★ ★

Shaun Munro – Observe me on Twitter for extra movie rambling.


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