Director: Ryan Gosling
Cast: Iain De Caestecker, Christina Hendricks, Saoirse Ronan, Matt Smith
Directorial debut of Ryan Gosling, Lost River was originally titled ‘How to Catch A Monster’ before a first outing at Cannes in 2014 was received with untempered vilification. 10 months later and 10 minutes shorter it has re-emerged for nationwide release. The question remains: is it any good? Single mother Billy (Hendricks) lives with her two sons in a ghost town mirroring Detroit, desolate streets haunted by burning buildings and ruled by sociopathic hooligan Bully (Smith). Billy is struggling with mortgage repayments and in desperation accepts a job offered by Dave (Mendelsohn); bank manager by day, proprietor of a torture salon by night. Meanwhile, Bones, Billy’s eldest son, becomes convinced they are trapped in a spell – and it is up to him to break it.
The film is, essentially, a very long, beautiful, meaningless music video. While it achieves Gosling’s aim of portraying the American-Dream-turned-nightmare, it has no social commentary or insight to offer, making the portrayal a rather one-dimensional affair. Strong currents of David Lynch, Terrence Malik and Nicolas Winding Refn run through the film, to the extent that I begin internally debating where the line between influencing and copying is drawn. Although Lost River is at times self-indulgent and over-orchestrated, its saving grace can be found in its reflection of the struggle most of us will be familiar with; the internal fight between fear of the unknown and a longing for escape.
Originally published in Crack Magazine