Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Lost River

It's knocking on for a year and a half since Ryan Gosling last graced our screens, in 2013's undisputable best film Only God Forgives. What's he been doing since then, you might ask? Directing a film, I might answer. More accurately, though, I might instead answer: dicking around with a camera, some chums, Nicolas Winding Refn's leftover neon lights and a script he knocked out while shifting a stubborn poo one rainy lunchtime.

In doing some half-hearted post-viewing research on Lost River, I came across the following question in the film's IMDb forums:
The question was posted, in all seriousness, by a "charles-richardson1", although I would not have been remotely surprised to find its true author was "BabyGoose80" or similar because "Lynch-inspired student film" is uncannily close to what Gosling has quacked out with his debut feature. Having clearly spent his downtime on the sets of Refn's films watching his friend weave his dreamlike magic, Gosling has thrown together a woozy, faintly surreal film which appears to be about nothing, with no characters to give a hoot about and nothing of any substance to grab hold of. It's Refn-lite: fluorescent lighting and moody electronica abound (Johnny Jewel scores the film; his side project Chromatics provided the iconic Tick Of The Clock for Drive), but with none of the precision, wit or imagination on display in Drive or Only God Forgives.
As Billy, a cash-strapped single mom in a near-deserted, almost post-apocalyptic town, Christina Hendricks is forced into various indignities by bank manager and pantomime villain Ben Mendelsohn. Her son Bones (Ian De Caestecker) wants to help, his girlfriend Rat (Saiorse Ronan) babbles on about a curse that must be lifted to stop the bad things happening, and meanwhile a miscast Matt Smith roams the streets declaring himself king of the world and doing unspeakable things with scissors. As the nominal bad guys, Smith and Mendelsohn are the only things worth watching Lost River for, although without anyone else interesting to play off they're cast adrift; characters without a story.

While none of this is especially painful to sit through, there just doesn't seem to be any point to it all. If Gosling has one, he's failed to articulate it in either his script or direction, and the tragedy is that there's nothing to suggest that any further forays into filmmaking would be any more worthwhile. Obviously I love Ryan Gosling more than life itself, and I wish him all the best in whatever he chooses to do, but I think the best thing we can do is to erect an invisible wall in front of all the cameras on his films and make sure he stays on the brightly-lit side of it.

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