Published on April 28th, 2015 | by Allan Brown2
Lost River Review
Movie Review: Lost River (2015)
Running Time: 95 mins
Director: Ryan Gosling
Writer: Ryan Gosling
Stars: Christina Hendricks, Iain De Caestecker, Matt Smith, Saoirse Ronan, Ben Mendelsohn, Eva Mendes
Although ‘The All New Mickey Mouse Club’ is where it all began, it wasn’t until the runaway success of ‘The Notebook’ in 2004, that Ryan Gosling found himself catapulted into mainstream cinema, as Hollywood’s latest heartthrob. However, no sooner had he melted the hearts of millions with his portrayal as ‘Noah‘, had he began distancing himself from such roles, to pursue darker, more complex and challenging parts for himself.
First come ‘Half Nelson’ in 2006 which received much critical admiration, then followed ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ in 2007, before Derek Cianfrance’s stunningly honest relationship drama, ‘Blue Valentine’ in 2010. Then in 2011, Gosling met his muse; a certain someone by the name of Nicolas Winding Refn. Together they not only forged one of the most iconic films of the last decade (Drive), but continue to push the envelope of film as an art form into bold and exciting new territory, with each collaboration.
Now, for the first time, Gosling takes to the director’s chair (shooting his own original script) with a dark American folk tale, drenched with strong social undertones.
Set in the dying town of Lost River, single mother Billy (Christina Hendricks) desperately tries to keep herself and her two sons afloat in a town that offers little life or opportunity. As the mortgage repayments fall behind and the family home close to repossession, Billy, a waitress by trade, is met with a proposition from her bank manager (Ben Mendelsohn) to take a job in a nightclub that caters for a very different clientèle.
Bones, Billy’s eldest son (Iain De Caestecker) recognizes the urgency they’re in, and so springs into action by stripping the crumbling buildings for copper wire and pipe for quick cash. However, when he inadvertently cross’s paths with the local psycho and self-appointed boss – suitably named Bully (Matt Smith) – trouble inevitably ensues. While juggling the babysitting of his younger brother Frankie, and keeping out of Bully’s sight, Bones befriends a fellow lost soul by the name of Rat (Saorise Ronan). As their friendship strengthens, she presents an intriguing mythology to Lost River; a mythology that she believes may offer the cure and answer to their decaying town.
So what can be said for Ryan Gosling efforts as a fledgling filmmaker? Well, from the very first frame it is clear that ‘Lost River’ is a film born out of Gosling’s influences. From Lynch, Cianfrance, Malick and of course Refn, they’re trademark visuals are all here, and in abundance. From beautiful sunset tracking shots through the long grass, to heavy smoke filled theatres and neon bathed petrol stations, Gosling, along with master of light, cinematographer Benoît Debie together capture an air of mystery, wonder, fear and uncertainty in every frame, and all with a handheld camera. This helps create a very personal and real feel to an otherwise very surreal film. Think Terrance Malick meets Nicolas Winding Refn and you won’t be a million miles away.
The impressive cast assembled all seem to be in tune with the film Gosling wanted to make. Hendricks and Ronan are strong throughout and play perfectly against the unnerving antagonists Smith and Mendelsohn, who both bring an unsettling air to the proceedings. However, it is De Caestecker that steals the show, proving to be a fine lead actor with much promise.
With that said, ‘Lost River’ will not be everyone’s cup of tea. At its heart, it’s an ambiguous visual analogy for the unheard cries and struggles of decaying societies, faced by thousands American towns and cities, due to corrupt political agendas and sleazy capitalist attitudes. However, the film itself is somewhat messy, somewhat clumsy and for the most part, rather airy. It’s a film that is more concerned about creating mood, atmosphere, symbolism and metaphor with its images and sounds, than a strong narrative or character exploration, and therefore lacks that sucker-punch it perhaps requires in highlighting these political and social issues.
Summary: Despite feeling like a 95 minute homage to his peers and it’s rather light thematic narrative, Gosling shows great promise as an artist. His next challenge will be to hone his technique and trim down his influences to find his own unique voice.