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USA 2014
Directed by
Ryan Gosling
95 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Lost River

Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut was mercilessly disparaged on its premiere at Cannes but on the evidence of the film itself it would seem to be a classic case of “those who can’t, criticize”.  Yes, Gosling is clearly enamoured of David Lynch and Terrence Malick whilst many have pointed to the influence of Nicholas Winding Refn who directed Gosling in Drive (2011) and Only God Forgives (2013).  The latter’s work I don’t know well enough to say but certainly the Lynchian sensibility is well to the fore in this dystopian tale of urban decay.

The story, which Gosling also wrote, is set in an urban wasteland (Detroit in actuality) and tells of Billy (Christina Hendricks) and her son, Bones (Iain De Caestecker). She’s three months behind on the mortgage payments and he spends his days stripping copper from abandoned buildings. In order to save her home Billy has to deal with Dave (Ben Mendolsohn), a sleazy bank manager who offers her a job in his very bent, very Lynchian nightclub whilst Bones’ incurs the wrath of Bully (Matt Smith) a violent low-life on whose self-proclaimed territory Bones has trespassed.  Meanwhile, Bones’s friend, Rat (Saoirse Ronan) tells him about a sunken town which lies at the bottom of the local dam and that if he retrieves an item from it he will lift the curse on their lives.

The main critical gripe against Gosling seems to be that his film is more a synthesis of his influences than something with an identity of its own, but for my money Gosling has made something that merits attention for its ambition and inventiveness, skillful realization (credit here must go to Benoît Debie for his cinematography) and darkly atmospheric cohesiveness.  All up, for a debut film-maker, Lost River is a pretty impressive effort. And I'd like to see what the film's naysayers have done that's better.




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