Directed by: Ryan Gosling
Written by: Ryan Gosling
Starring: Christina Hendricks, Iain De Caestecker, Saoirse Ronan, Eva Mendes.
Running Time: 94 Minutes.
Ryan Gosling follows in the footsteps of recent actors turned directors such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Joel Edgerton with his directorial debut, Lost River. Although Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon and Edgerton’s The Gift were met with a much more positive response upon release than Gosling’s first effort. Many were quick to tear Gosling’s film down, though I feel like he’s made a solid directorial debut that people will revisit in years to come and appreciate more than their initial viewing.
The film opens with Billy (Christina Hendricks), a single mother of two, in financial difficulty after the housing market collapse. Her son, Bones (newcomer Iain De Caestecker), steals copper from abandoned buildings and sells it at scrap yards in hopes of making some money to support the family. Billy is offered a job by the slightly shady bank manager whom she consults about keeping her home. The job is at a surreal nightclub that seems like something from David Lynch’s imagination. From her both Bones and Billy are swept into the dark underworld of the town of Lost River.
Gosling’s influences for this film are obvious; Nicolas Winding Refn, Gaspar Noé and David Lynch. Gosling even hired the same cinematographer that both Refn and Noé use, the result is one of the most visually stunning films of 2014.
Johnny Jewel of The Chromatics, and who also provided part of the soundtrack for the Gosling-starring arthouse action hit Drive, created a hauntingly beautiful score for the film which perfectly complements the often strange imagery onscreen. One of the musical highlights of the film comes in the form of Irish starlet Saoirse Ronan singing ‘Tell Me’ as she plays the keyboard in her bedroom.
In relation to casting, Gosling has assembled a perfectly capable group to bring his twisted vision to life. Christina Hendricks is a far cry from her glamorous Mad Men alter ego but provides many of the film’s most moving moments, which begs the question: why isn’t she in more films? Saoirse Ronan also provides one of her better performances here as the quiet girl next door that’s swept into Bones’ drama with the town sociopath, played perfectly by Matt Smith.
Perhaps the reason critics were so quick to dismiss Gosling’s first effort was because he tried to make something different? Both of the previously mentioned films made by actors fit very neatly into common film genres, though still very good movies, but Gosling’s is a little harder to unpack and perhaps the ambitious nature of the film put people off. If this were the debut of an unknown director, he would be hailed as the next David Lynch.
Verdict: Criminally underrated and filled with surreal imagery, a haunting score and a decent cast. Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut is most definitely worth checking out.
Lost River is available to watch now on Netflix.