Lost River
dir-scr Ryan Gosling
prd Ryan Gosling, David Lancaster, Michel Litvak, Marc Platt, Adam Siegel, Jeffrey Stott
with Christina Hendricks, Iain De Caestecker, Saoirse Ronan, Matt Smith, Ben Mendelsohn, Eva Mendes, Barbara Steele, Reda Kateb, Torrey Wigfield, Landyn Stewart, Shannon Plumb, Robert Skrok
release US/UK 10.Apr.15
14/US Warner 1h35
Lost River
Purple haze: Hendricks and Mendes

decaestecker ronan smith
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Lost River Audacious and inventive, this seems more about a first-time filmmaker flexing his artistic muscle than about telling a story. While it looks amazing, and features a strong cast in cleverly offbeat roles, the lack of narrative momentum leaves it impossible to engage with on any level. So it's pretty but dull.

In the virtually abandoned city of Lost River, Billy (Hendricks) lives with her sons: toddler Franky (Stewart) and teen Bones (De Caestecker). When Billy is shown no mercy by new bank manager Dave (Mendelsohn), she takes his offer of a job at a freaky cabaret club alongside Cat (Mendes). Meanwhile, Bones does his part by scavenging copper from vacant buildings, which puts him at odds with self-proclaimed gangster Bully (Smith) and his sidekick Face (Wigfield). The girl next door, Rat (Ronan), tries to help, but is preoccupied with caring for her delusional grandmother (Steele).

This is a lurid fairy tale, a collision of David Lynch and John Waters by way of Terrence Malick. Gosling uses fire, water, blood and decay to add plenty of texture. And the actors build intensity with emotionally edgy performances. Hendricks and De Caestecker both capture a superb sense of desperation, trying to hold their depleted family together in a society destroyed by economic blight. The other standouts are Smith as the grandstanding thug and Mendelsohn as a creep with a penchant for song and dance.

The problem is that without a coherent plot nothing these people face resonates. The metaphor of a nearby town flooded when the river was dammed is overused and underworked, especially as it includes a buried dinosaur theme park that adds a Loch Ness kick but never quite resolves into anything meaningful. The same problem extends to the indulgent character names and each of the plot threads, leaving Rat's story dangling like a random reference to both Great Expectations and Sunset Blvd.

But then most of the film feels like it refers to something else, from the purple glow of the nightclub's bizarro catacombs to Bully's lair in an abandoned zoo. Gosling beautifully depicts the mood of each scene, using darkly colourful imagery that evokes all kinds of bleak emotion. He has clearly learned a lot from stylish directors he's worked with like Nicolas Winding Refn and Derek Cianfrance, and he knows his film-history iconography. But next time he should also tell a story.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 7.Apr.15

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