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[SXSW ’21] ‘The Lost Sons’ review: Truth is stranger than fiction in kidnapping case

A shocking tale.

The Lost Sons is a documentary that, as director Ursula McFarlene says, is stranger than fiction. The South by Southwest premiere is about Paul Fronczak. As a child, he discovered a startling secret about his family. It was a discovery that would eventually change his life. This film is a story of a kidnapping, long lost siblings, and shocking betrayals.

The unbelievable story begins in 1960s Chicago. Fronczak is kidnapped from the hospital he was born in the day before. The entire city tries to find the newborn, but he is never found. Fifteen months later, a baby is abandoned in New Jersey. What seems to be an open and shut case soon leads to Chicago. Could it be the same child?

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Any story involving kidnapping is a sad one. The Lost Sons adds to the emotion using archival footage and newspaper clippings from the time. These also have the added effect of bringing more tension and mystery to the already incredible story. They also highlight how there is a sameness to the documentary. This never prevents the film from being interesting, but The Lost Sons is standard fare. While the events may be unpredictable, the filmmaking never is.

[SXSW '21] 'The Lost Sons' review: Truth is stranger than fiction in kidnapping case

After an attention grabbing start, things slow down. The documentary loses its way a little when it chronicles Fronczak’s life. Fronczak’s story is an engaging watch; his life is mildly entertaining. That being said, the story of The Lost Sons will amaze audiences. Fronczak’s life holds some interest on its own, but as his family’s secrets unfold, things stretch credibility. As incredible as the story gets, it is all true. 

This is the most captivating part of the documentary. The constant turns in the story takes will keep surprising those watching. There are interesting questions of nature versus nurture, but the bizarre nature of what happened is what will stand out more than anything. A good documentary will shock the audience once, maybe twice; The Lost Sons constantly does.

The increased popularity in documentaries has led to some inconceivable topics. The Lost Sons has a premise that sounds straight from a script. It is one of those cases where it is hard to believe that it actually happened. The mystery will draw audiences in and its constant twists will keep anyone from turning away.

SXSW is March 16 – March 20. Tickets and a full lineup can be found here.

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