Film Reviews, News & Competitions



Lost River

Film Information

Plot: A single mother is swept into a dark underworld, while her teenage son discovers a road that leads him to a secret underwater town. 
Release Date: 10th April 2015
Director(s): Ryan Gosling
Cast: Iain De Caestecker, Christina Hendricks, Matt Smith, Ben Mendelsohn, Saoirse Ronan, Eva Mendes
BBFC Certificate: 15
Running Time: 95 mins
Country Of Origin: USA
Review By: Samuel John Hall
Film Genre: ,
Film Rating


Bottom Line

For Gosling's first foray into directing and writing it's not as reprehensible as many first decreed. Nevertheless, it's shamelessly derivative and lacks its own identity. The quirky premise never manages to escape its simplicity, nor does Gosling outstrip his influences. Yet this could be the misstep that leads to an intriguing career behind the camera.  

Posted April 11, 2015 by

Film Review

It may well be impossible to approach, view and reflect on Lost River without the knowledge/context of the phenomena that is Ryan Gosling. Audiences and critics alike will find themselves caught in an odd catch 22, where they simultaneously hope for the best from a talent that has proven his capacity for engaging and effortlessly cool performances, but know full-well to expect the worst from a somewhat premature foray into the precarious world of writing/directing. There is no doubt his recent stature and success within the film industry has enabled him to produce his own debut feature with a cast, budget and freedom that many would envy and some resent. However, this has without doubt prevented him from trialling his own cinematic creativity on a more intimate and forgiving stage.

Lost River, the naively dreamlike feature in question, is set in a dystopian Detriot suburbia that serves as a strange, demonic landscape within which Gosling’s parable of the broken American dream unravels. We find ourselves trailing the quaintly christened Bones and Billy, a son and mother double act nobly striving to survive in an unforgiving and cruel world. They dream of better lives that seem implausibly out of reach… yes, that ol’ well-trodden nugget.

Bones inhabits the industrial undergrowth, scavenging for copper to trade at the local dump, which pits him against the ruthlessly psychotic Bully. Billy, on the other hand, desperately out of options, strikes a deal with a morally-corrupt banker to perform at a Lynchian cabaret club in order to retain their derelict house. It’s a plainly told tale that centres on likable do-gooders struggling in a world where monsters dominate and evil permeates. The focus is unapologetically held on the idiosyncrasies and oddities that decorate the city, which warrants the faint believability in the plot’s fantastical elements.

Iain De Caestecker shines as the brooding, good-hearted Bones, providing an impressively  reserved and mature performance that strongly argues he should spend more time invested in unique independent projects rather than wilting away in Marvel’s serialized TV spin-off Agents of Shield. Unsurprisingly, Christina Hendricks continues her trend of consistently solid turns as desperate mother Billy, and with the immaculate support of Ben Mendelsohn, Matt Smith and Saoirse Ronan, they collectively construct a cohesive ensemble that the audience can sink their teeth into.

However, the overly-stylized cinematography and clichéd nightmarish narrative curb any long lasting impression and leave you frustrated at Gosling’s artistic simplicity. The blatant homage to the director’s prior collaborators and idols – Nicolas Winding Refn, David Lynch, Harmony Korine and Derek Cianfrance to name a few – unfortunately take centre stage and leave little room for our beloved director to develop his own voice and style.

It’s an interesting thought to consider what critics and audiences would have made of this had it not been the creative debut of the world’s most lovable yet divisive star. But you can’t ignore the glaring shortcomings of Lost River, whether it’s the derivative visuals or the pedestrian thematic standards reached.

Yet there is just enough confidence and promise in his ideas, if more than just a glimmer, to suggest he could have an intriguing career ahead… one that’s not just in-front of the camera. He may need to take more time on subsequent projects, with priority given to his own ideas, rather than those of others.

Sammy Hall



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