Ryan Gosling’s debut feature Lost River was met with jeers upon its initial screening at the Cannes Film Festival last year with many writing Gosling off as a director after one film.
The film, a hybrid of gritty suburban drama and magical realism documents a number of characters living in an unspecified future wrestling with a tough economic climate and a collapsed social structure. Christina Hendricks plays Billy, a single mother who has fell on tough times financially who is trying to raise her two young sons. Her eldest son Bones(Iain De Caestecker), steals copper to help the family keep their head above water and in doing so angers a local thug, the aptly named Bully (Matt Smith.)
Billy is having a bit of a strange time herself, in trying to raise some money she joins an underground strip club ran by her bank manager Dave (Ben Mendelsohn.) Except this is no ordinary strip club, the women involved all perform strange acts based around violence and self mutilation.
If this all sounds like it could have come from the mind of David Lynch or Nicolas Winding Refn that’s because it may as well have done. Gosling’s film, for all it’s striking imagery feels like it was made by a student who was set the task of making a film in the style of his favourite auteurs.
There are flashes of everyone from Lynch to Denis Vileneuve in here but the problem is that it feels like there is very little Gosling in there. In trying to make a film that pays something of a homage to these directors his movies feels derivative, failing to carve its own identity.
That isn’t to say the film doesn’t have its moments, there are flashes of brilliance in there, moments that give you hope Gosling may be able to show his true colours in the future.
The cast, most of whom have worked with Gosling at some point in the past all provide solid enough performances with Ben Mendelsohn, as always being a particular stand out as the twisted head of the underground night club.
Verdict: Despite moments of brilliance Gosling’s film feels like a patch work of other people’s works. Those wondering what it would be like if David Lynch and Nicolas Winding Refn made a film together may find something here but those looking to find cinema’s next great arthouse auteur are better off looking elsewhere.
Image Credit: Bold Films