Lost River, 2014.
Written and Directed by Ryan Gosling.
Starring Ben Mendelsohn, Christina Hendricks, Eva Mendes, Iain De Caestecker, Matt Smith and Saorise Ronan.
A single mother of two descends into a dark underworld trying to save her childhood home and hold her family together, while her son sets off on a journey to uncover the secret behind the origins of their abandoned city, Lost River.
Lost River, the bizarre and unfeasibly pretentious directorial debut from Hollywood heart-throb Ryan Gosling, plays out as if a punchline to a joke made up of one too many parts, or a film student with a nightmarish Messiah complex. Made up of nonsensical non sequiturs, Gosling plods from one homage to another, nodding towards Nicolas Winding Refn, David Lynch, Harmony Korine and Gasper Noe in the process.
Christina Hendricks plays Billy, mother-of-two, struggling to pay her mortgage as her son Bones (Ian De Caestecker) loots wrecked houses for copper. His looting brings him into conflict with the somewhat sinister, more often pantomime villain Bully – played with bravado and a strange intensity by Matt Smith. As she falls behind her mortgage payment, Billy comes into contact with Dave (played wonderfully by Ben Mendelsohn), who offers her a job in a BDSM night club he happens to run. Saoirse Ronan also makes an appearance as Rat – because she has a rat – Bones’ love interest.
Gosling and his cinematographer Benoit Debie visually masturbate over Detroit’s gothic ruins, ensuring every shot, although lacking in any substance, at least looks pretty. Yet each shot plays out as simply a series of voyeuristic images – a house being destroyed, Bully demanding people look at his muscles, a sunken Prehistoric park. There is no restraint, every image is packed to the brim with garish, portentous ideas lost in Gosling’s vacuous pomposity.
Lost River is baffling, impossibly pretentious and more often than not idiotic, yet I didn’t hate it. In fact, I may have enjoyed it. There’s something in watching a film being weird for the sake of being weird. The dialogue is wooden and without purpose, the gore is genuinely unsettling and the aesthetic is garish and wonderfully strange. You could do worse than watching Lost River as a double-bill alongside SpongeBob Squarepants’ latest cinematic venture.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★