Sunday 12 July 2015

Lost River

I have a lot of respect for Ryan Gosling. Despite initially hitting the big time with generic romance The Notebook, he quickly moved away from what could have been an endless career of shit into adventurous independent cinema, with starring roles in Half Nelson, Lars & The Real Girl and All Good Things, and more recently the brilliant Drive and not-so-brilliant Only God Forgives. But unfortunately, all this art around him seems to have gone to his head. In 2014, he wrote, directed and produced his behind-the-camera debut. He probably should’ve just stuck with his acting.

Out now and strangely only available on DVD comes Lost River, a film so pretentious and self-indulgent it almost feels like parody. The plot is preposterous and difficult to explain, and the only way to explain it quickly is using IMDb - A single mother is swept into a dark underworld, while her teenage son discovers a road that leads him to a secret underwater town. If you’re thinking to yourself “What the f-“ then you’re on the right train of thought. It’s a load of bollocks.

Stylistically, Lost River feels like a student film made by someone who has watched all of David Lynch’s films and thought to themselves; “I can do that”. Granted, some of the film looks okay. Benoît Debie’s cinematography is decent, despite being unoriginal in its cliché independent arthouse cinema vibes. And the acting is solid, with a strong cast to support that claim. Christina Hendricks is brilliant as single mother Billy and Ben Mendehlson, Matt Smith and Saoirse Ronan do well with what they’re given. Are there any positives, other than the acting and some of the visuals? There’s a rather moody, atmospheric score by Johnny Jewel (who contributed to Drive) throughout that fits the surreal nonsense happening on screen rather well. But it does get tiresome in its almost constant use. But on the whole, the film feels very amateur. I know, it’s Gosling’s debut and everyone has to start somewhere. But Gosling has worked with independent cinema auteurs like Derek Cianfrance and Nicolas Winding Refn – you would think he’d know how to make a coherent, watchable film just from observing them. He could’ve taken what he learned working on Drive, Blue Valentine or The Place Beyond The Pines and applied it here. But it looks like he’s been inspired by Only God Forgives and made a bonkers little piece for himself to enjoy. It’s a shame we can’t enjoy it too.

Although I want to say some more nice things about Lost River, I’m genuinely struggling to find any more positives to discuss. But hey, with a little more practice, Gosling might have a future behind the camera - underneath the pretension of Lost River there is potential, hiding away. Hopefully now he’s got this one out of his system, he’ll have a long hard think about where his strengths lie for his second attempt at filmmaking. But for the time being? Stick to acting, Ryan. Your unnamed character in Drive is one of the most iconic film characters of the last 20 years. You’ve got a few more great performances in you before you hide away behind the camera again.

I wanted to like this film. I looked forward to seeing it. As I said, I’m a fan of Gosling, and I love arthouse cinema. But Lost River is a laughably conceited disappointment. Upon being screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014, it was reportedly loudly booed by the remaining critics who hadn’t already walked out of the pretentious tripe. Cannes critics are notoriously tough, sure. But for the first time, I completely understand their disgust.

Lost River should be lost and never found. 1/5.


Sam Love

Lost River at CeX

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