Canadian actor Ryan Gosling (“Drive”, “Crazy, Stupid, Love”) has recently made his directorial debut with the fantasy drama film “Lost River”, which he also wrote and co-produced.
The movie was poorly received at Cannes in 2014, since when Gosling has apparently re-edited it, trimming the running time by ten minutes. Unfortunately, critics seem to be of the opinion that the remaining ninety five minutes don’t add up to much.
Set in the fictional town of Lost River, where a highway disappears into a huge resevoir under which is a town and theme park. The setting seems to have been inspired by flooded New Orleans and the decaying parts of Detroit – the city in which it was shot.
Gosling has told press that although he grew up thinking everything cool came from Detroit, when he filmed “The Ides Of March” there in 2011 it was very different “there’s bankruptcy, it’s like 40 miles of abandoned buildings. … And within these empty neighborhoods, occasionally there’s a family trying to hold onto their home, and it seemed that the dream had turn into a nightmare for these people. So I thought I’d like to try to make a film about that”.
Single mum Billy (Christina Hendricks – “Mad Men”, “God’s Pocket”) lives in one of the few remaining occupied houses in her neighbourhood with her two sons, toddler Franky and teenager Bones (Iain De Caestecker – “Filth”, “Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.”).
Bones retrieves copper from abandoned buildings to sell in order to fund parts for the car he’s trying to get working as he also wants to leave the neighbourhood behind.
Unfortunately, he is on the patch that local small crime boss Bully (Matt Smith – “Dr. Who”) considers his own personal kingdom.
Billy is three months behind with the mortgage payments and is offered a job, by her new bank manager Dave (Ben Mendelsohn – “The Place Beyond The Pines”), at a late night cabaret of horrors that he has set up in town, where the star turn is Cat (Eva Mendes – “Bad Lieutenant”, “2 Fast 2 Furious”).
Next door to Billy’s house we find a teenage girl named Rat (Saoirse Ronan – The Host”) living with her grandmother (Barbara Steele – “The Mask Of Satan” who hasn’t spoken a word since her husband died during construction of the reservoir and spends her time watching old home movies.
From all of this we get a story touching on the after-effects of a huge financial crash on ordinary people in amongst a fair amount of weirdness!
Visually, this movie is fantastic. The colours are vibrant, some of the shots – particularly those outdoors and at night – are brilliant. There is much to admire there. In terms of plot, we are on shakier ground. Not a whole lot really happens in the hour and a half, and yet plenty does seem to occur.
Watching this, I really felt echoes of the work of David Lynch and his “Twin Peaks” television series. It’s not the disaster that many would have you believe (though the Detroit Free Press sees positives at play here) but I wouldn’t claim that it will be a cult classic in years to come either. Nonetheless, taken as an experience rather than a story as such, there is much to appreciate and enjoy…