Lost River (2014)

Lost River (2014)
  • Time: 105 min
  • Genre: Fantasy | Thriller
  • Director: Ryan Gosling
  • Cast: Christina Hendricks, Saoirse Ronan, Eva Mendes


“Lost River” is a dark fairy tale about love, family and the fight for survival in the face of danger. In the virtually abandoned city of Lost River, Billy (Christina Hendricks), a single mother of two, is led into a macabre underworld in her quest to save her childhood home and hold her family together. Her teenage son Bones (Iain De Casestecker) discovers a mystery about the origins of Lost River that triggers his curiosity and sets into motion an unexpected journey that will test his limits and the limits of those he loves.


  • Just because you’re a good actor doesn’t exactly mean you’re going to be a good director as well. Words perhaps Ryan Gosling should have kept in mind before making his directorial debut with Lost River. The films is both written and directed by Gosling and stars; Christina Hendricks, Ian De Caestaeker, Matt Smith, Saoirse Ronan, Ben Mendelsohn and Eva Mendes. After premiering to an underwhelming reception at Cannes last year the film is finally set to hit theaters this week.

    Lost River tells the tale of a town that has been decimated by an economic disaster. The story concentrates mainly on Billy (Christina Hendricks), a single mother, who desperate to protect her family is swept into a macabre underworld while her son discovers a secret underwater town. Lost River is a creepy, bizarre fantasy thriller which while succeeds at bringing Gosling’s vision to the screen, fails to impress us. Thing is that Lost River could have been great, many of the ideas are intriguing but the gonzo elements of the film get a little too much and the film doesn’t feel artistic, rather a desperate attempt to look artistic. The tone of the film is very somber and depressing and the characters are equally demented or bleak but unlike Requiem For A Dream or 21 Grams this film possesses no grit whatsoever.

    The movie does have its positives, even if they are very little in number. For one thing the film is very well-shot and the influence of Nicholas Winding Refn and Terrence Malick on Gosling is quite clear. The performances are also quite solid, Ben Mendelsohn is easily the pick of the performers as the creepy banker Dave. His character is very reminiscent to Dennis Hopper’s Frank Booth in Blue Velvet and Mendelsohn does well to bring the freaky and outlandish persona of the character to the screen. Christina Hendricks and Ian De Caestaeker are also good and Hendricks’s character brings a lot of emotion to the story.

    Sadly however Ryan Gosling’s gonzo, surrealist fantasy thriller is nothing special more than a failed experiment. The performances and striking cinematography make the movie watchable, that is until the fantasy element starts playing out and the film becomes more grotesque than artistic. Gosling proves that he has vision, alas it is a demented one.

    Final Score: 2.2/10

  • Lost River, actor Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut, is an admirable work though not necessarily for the reasons one might suspect. It is one hundred steps beyond the sanest stretches of indulgence, and pretentious to boot. Yet man, in fact most, of its individual pieces intrigue even as they refuse to settle into anything resembling coherence.

    Gosling gone out on a very shaky limb, and his gutsiness is to be applauded. He possesses a keen visual eye, and he is unabashed in his cinematic influences – Lost River bears the spiritual handprints of David Lynch, Harmony Korine, Dario Argento, Billy Wilder, Georges Franju, and Gosling collaborators Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines) and Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Forgives), to name but a few. It’s a curse and a credit to Gosling, who could do worse than to kneel before those directors’ altars but who most definitely needs to find his own voice and further strengthen his command of the medium.

    Lost River is a slice of American gothic in which the American Dream is literally and figuratively crumbling around the few remaining inhabitants of the fictional town of the title. Single mother of two Billy (Christina Hendricks), behind on her mortgage payments and desperate to hang onto her home, accepts a job offered by her bank manager Dave (Ben Mendelsohn). Her teenage son Bones (Iain De Caestecker) does what he can to help, going round from one abandoned house to another to strip copper wire. This gets him in trouble with local nutjob Bully (Matt Smith), who has a penchant for gold-sequined jackets and slicing off people’s lips with scissors. Smith, best known for his turn as Doctor Who, utilises his gawky presence to unsettling effect, especially in a scene in which he suggestively asks to touch Rat’s (Saoirse Ronan) pet rat. The scene, which has the thug threatening to darken the innocent’s sexuality, pays homage to Willem Dafoe’s far disturbing symbolic deflowering of Laura Dern in Lynch’s Wild at Heart.

    Lost River is chock full of dreamy imagery – a flaming bike rolling past Bones, the glamorous decay of the derelict buildings, Ronan’s face lit by the flamingo pink neon – but none are as striking as the ones set in the house of horrors club run by Dave. Here is where the most perverse and demented entertainment is luridly presented. The glorious Eva Mendes slinks into each frame only to be knifed and bathed in blood like some Dario Argento victim. Her wink at the end of one performance may be the film’s best and most lighthearted moment. Billy, peeling off a layer of skin to expose the muscle beneath, references Franju’s Eyes Without a Face for her onstage performance.

    Mendelsohn, who seems to be everywhere these days, is delectably sinister as the ringmaster of the flagrantly grotesque cabaret club. Whether crooning Hank Williams’ “Cool Water” or dancing before rubbing against an encased Hendricks, the Australian actor provides the film with its most hypnotically disturbing moments.

    Willfully abstract, Lost River is a promising if flawed showing from Gosling. The carefully composed images are striking, but nothing breathes within the frame. Still, this hypersaturated fractured fairy tale contains enough bizarrely interesting elements to be a future midnight movie mainstay.

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