Sunday, April 12, 2015

Review: Lost River

Image courtesy of Warner Bros.
I've got to tip my hat to Ryan Gosling. His debut as a director, "Lost River," has some evocative imagery and its share of haunting moments, even if the film on the whole doesn't quite cohere.

Often, debut films pay homage to the movies that inspired the director and, in this case, it's pretty clear that Gosling admires David Lynch, Nicolas Winding Refn, Harmony Korine and even Terrence Malick. There are stylistic touches throughout the picture that give nods to all of the above.

Much like the recent "It Follows," Gosling makes great use of the burnt out environs of Detroit, where the story of "Lost River" is set. Both ethereal and unsettling, the dilapidated homes, graffitied buildings and abandoned neighborhoods are almost a character themselves in the unusual narrative.

A young man named Bones (Iain De Caestecker) lives with his little brother and mother (Christina Hendricks) in a rundown home and they are on the verge of being evicted. Bones steels copper from abandoned buildings "owned" by a creepy villain named Bully (Matt Smith), who rides around in a Cadillac with an elevated seat and speaks as if he were a character on "Twin Peaks."

Hendricks's Billy takes a job working for another creep named Dave (Ben Mendelsohn) at a bar - again, obviously inspired by Lynch - where she takes part in performances with fellow workers, including Eva Mendes, that include brutal stabbings and faces being peeled off. Across the street from Bones is a young woman (Saoirse Ronan) with a pet rat.

Although the film's surrealist narrative elements aren't exactly successful, individual images stand out - including some telephone poles emerging from a swampy body of water, a house on fire and an elderly woman constantly transfixed by a creepy old wedding video.

And while I can't say the picture exactly works, it certainly proves that Gosling has talent behind the camera. When he finds his own voice and (hopefully) makes a second film as a director, I believe it could be something special.

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