The Lost City Finds Balance Between Humor and Healing From Grief

Herbo and Himbo: Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum in “The Lost City.”Credit…Kimberley French/Paramount Pictures

When I first saw the trailer for “The Lost City,” I was intrigued and delighted by the idea of a romance author and her cover model getting swept away on a real-life adventure. It seemed like a quality, fun summer film that would be enjoyable to see in theaters. Later on, when I saw “The Lost City,” I realized that even though the surface-level story was indeed delightful, underneath it was a poignant, heartfelt conversation about living with grief and loss. 

My husband passed away a few months before his 30th birthday. He had been my best friend, creative mentor, and the love of my life. His laugh was my favorite sound in the entire world, and his mind was fascinating. He told stories like no one I’d ever encountered, and we worked on projects together happily and eagerly. It was as if we were meant to be each other’s muse. After he was gone, I lost sight of life for a long time. I wasn’t sure how I could go on, and I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to. I was on my own, alone, missing him so badly that I cried myself to sleep most nights for several months, and my creativity felt shriveled, misshapen, and near extinction.

Sandra Bullock’s character in “The Lost City,” Doctor Loretta Sage, experienced something similar. She lost the love of her life and, consequently, her love of life. Her creativity went into hibernation as she retreated from the world. She stayed home, coping as best she could, with no hope of ever feeling ok again. This resonates with me deeply. When you lose someone you love that much, it can feel like the world has turned ash gray forever. Nothing piques your interest. Everything is dull, flat, and lifeless. Sometimes, it seems like life will always be that way. So you hide away, the pain so insulating and numbing that it’s difficult to connect with the people around you. 

Fortunately for me and for Doctor Sage, there are friends who refuse to give up on you. Doctor Sage’s friend and publisher, Beth, insists that Doctor Sage appears at an event for the release of her latest romance novel. While the Doctor would prefer to do more serious work, her romance novels are what pay the bills, especially with the addition of cover model Alan Caprison, who plays the part of the romantic hero, Dash. Misfortune befalls the Q&A, leading to a wild adventure involving Daniel Radcliffe’s Fairfax, a bitter, wealthy man bent on discovering the hiding place of a long-lost treasure.

My chosen family and friends also refused to give up on me. I spent five years lost, unsure of how to continue without my Harlan. My friends took me to DragonCon for the first time and spent late nights with me as we cried together. They invited me to events, brought me food, took me to see movies, and stayed by my side while I slowly found my footing again. Even now, on the anniversary of his death, my friends check up on me, knowing that grief never goes away. It stays with you, changes your outlook, and is a constant reminder that loss is always possible. 

Fairfax, Doctor Sage, and Alan discover that treasures can mean any number of things, not always something of material value. Love is the greatest treasure of all, and even if you’ve lost the love of your life, love can enter your life again through friendships, passion for your work, and even possibly romance. For an action-adventure comedy, “The Lost City” is a compelling, raw portrait of living with grief, healing, and choosing to move forward. 

I believe what makes “The Lost City” so great is the inclusion of women on the staff – Dana Fox was part of the scriptwriting team, Sandra Bullock and Liza Chasin were two of the producers, and Pinar Toprak created the score. So many Hollywood films have little to no female input at any level, especially at the highest levels, and this film feels more balanced, even focusing on the female gaze and passing the Bedchel test. 

Dr. Sage’s journey from grief and seclusion to the start of healing and the possibility of happiness gives me hope that life can continue, even after the loss of a loved one. We still have people around us who care about us. We can still honor the memory of our lost ones while continuing living, healing, and having adventures. We don’t have to forget them. They become part of us, part of our story, and will remain as long as we remember them. 

If you’re looking for fun summer fare sparkling with wit that also explores the idea of loss and healing, “The Lost City” should be at the top of your list. 

You can now see “The Lost City” in theaters or on the Paramount+ streaming service.

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