Lost River: Film Review

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Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut Lost River was panned when it premiered at Cannes so I braced myself for an experimental film that was totally shit. So I was actually surprised that Lost River wasn’t as bad as the media reports had lead us to believe. It needs a lot of work, sure, but it isn’t awful.

The drama focuses on Bones (Iain De Caestecker) and his single mum Billy (Christina Hendricks) – she is desperate for money so gets a job in a creepy underworld club run by Dave (Ben Mendelsohn) while Bones is trying to hide from the town psychopath Bully (Matt Smith) who wants to teach Bones a lesson for stealing his stuff. You also have their neighbour Rat (Saoirse Ronan) who looks after her catatonic grandmother and Cat (Eva Mendes), Billy’s co-worker at the club.

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The film is very odd and nothing is really explained to the audience – where is Bones’ dad? Why is the neighbourhood in such decline? Why is Bully so psychotic? Why does this freaky club where people pretend to kill themselves even exist? I had so many questions and I didn’t get answers for anything. The dialogue is sparse and it does little to create a full picture of who these characters are and why all these weird things are happening. The only character I sort of understood and felt any connection to was Billy, because her struggle has been seen on film a lot and I found Hendricks fascinating to watch.

I enjoyed the way it looked. The shots of urban decline and the decaying town were impressive and I really liked ‘the Lost River’ – a town which was flooded to create a reservoir. The setting was great although very depressing and bleak so it is a shame the story and minimal characterisation let it down. I did not like Bully or Dave because I could not understand them, their actions made no sense and it felt like they were being violent or pervy for no reason except to make the film edgy.

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However, this isn’t a hopeless cause. If you are after a mainstream, easy ride then this is not for you. But if indie films are your thing then this is good. It is not perfect, Gosling still has a long way to go in terms of writing, directing actors and finding his own style (this reminded me of Nicolas Winding Refn). But the cinematography and production design are incredible and I really enjoyed the music.

Out now

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