Lost River – Review

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Making his directorial debut in emphatic fashion, Ryan Gosling’s Lost River is a dark and deranged fairy tale that is steeped in a gritty realism. However, for all of the creativity on show, the first-time filmmaker struggles to overcome the overwhelming sense of tedium, with an inclination to be pretentious, and lose sight of the intriguing narrative at hand.

Opting against starring in the film himself, instead the role of the brooding, pensive protagonist is bestowed upon the young Scottish actor Iain De Caestecker, who plays teenager Bones, struggling to make ends meet in the dead-end, abandoned city of Lost River – watching on as his single mother Billy (Christina Hendricks) finds herself spiralling into a dark underworld of subversive entertainment, led by the vindictive Dave (Ben Mendelsohn). In the meantime, Bones has issues of his own, on the run from the sadistic, nefarious Bully (Matt Smith) who targets the innocent kid and his neighbour, Rat (Saoirse Ronan).

Gosling, who has worked closely with directors Derek Cianfrance in Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines, and then with Nicolas Winding Refn in Drive and Only God Forgives – has attempted to strike a compatible middle ground between the naturalistic tendencies of the former, with the fantastical surrealism attached to the latter’s, and sadly fallen carelessly between the two. The film is placed in a very real world, in the struggling Detroit, where the lack of opportunities on offer is a prevalent theme – but such is the inclination to be artistic and abstract (metaphors play a big part in this) – we lose touch with the more affecting, realistic elements at hand. Thankfully the performances are all very strong, there’s a certain volatility to Bully which makes for a fearful antagonist, while Hendricks is sincere and empathetic as always.

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Though a little ostentatious, there’s enough to be taken from Gosling’s vision to suggest there’s a capable, accomplished filmmaker in there, and it won’t be long before we get to see the best of him behind the lens. If worst comes to worst he can just carry on starring in films instead. It’s safe to say he’s pretty good at that, at least.

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About Stefan Pape

Stefan Pape is a film critic and interviewer who spends most of his time in dark rooms, sipping on filter coffee and becoming perilously embroiled in the lives of others. He adores the work of Billy Wilder and Woody Allen, and won’t have a bad word said against Paul Giamatti.

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