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Canadian actor and now Hollywood star Ryan Gosling has come a long way since his humble beginnings (the first time I saw the lad was on that 1997/98 TV show Breaker High). He's starred in some fantastic films (with STAY, ONLY GOD FORGIVES and DRIVE being my favs) and he recently tackled his first feature as a director from a script that he has written. It took me a while to get to LOST RIVER (it was released on VOD last April - you can watch it here), but like I always say (sometimes at the wrong time); better later than never! So how was it? I personally appreciated it.
If you're a fan of slow moving, at times vague and imagery/symbolism driven types of films, then give LOST RIVER a whirl as you may get something out of it. If not, don't bother! The first thing that stuck out on this one for me was how visually arresting it was. Gosling went all out in the style department, echoing the movies of David Lynch and Nicolas Winding Refn (whom he worked with on DRIVE and ONLY GOD FORGIVES) with a tip of the knife to old school Giallos. The artsy shot compositions (loved his use of wide/static shots), the trippy color motifs (dug the purple), the stylish angles, the ample use of slow motion (fire never looked better) ... it was all there and in spades at that! Gosling shamelessly wore his influences on his sleeve, hence, even when the story didn't fully do it for me, I was kept in the game by the pretty pictures. Don't get me wrong, there was a story here, a gripping one at that but it was one that became fuller when looking back at it afterwards. As I was experiencing this celluloid ride, it was first and foremost style over substance. But hey, maybe that's just me!
The fine actors here were definitely one of the film's main strength! The gorgeous Christina Hendricks (who acted with Gosling in Drive) owned the lead role, emanating a winning mix of strength and vulnerability. And lets face, the camera simply loves her and so does the Mothra in my chinos. Saoirse Ronan (who is one of my favorite actresses - period) took a fairly slim role and made it memorable, Matt Smith often stole the show via his scary/intense showcase, Ben Mendelsohn was solid as the "could be" sleaze bag while Iain De Caestecker made for an affable presence as the young man trying to save his family. NOTE: Horror icon Barbara Steele had a small part, it was nice to see the lady again and just for involving her, the film deserves a pat on the ass. END OF NOTE. Topple on top of all that, a challenging "metapahor heavy" M.O., a badass musical score (by Johnny Jewel) that went from Goblins like atmospheric to engaging 80's-ish synth, an overall desolate mood that upped the dread factor of the piece, potent production/costume designs and brilliant cinematography by "Gaspar Noe regular" Benoît Debie (the shots on the river = wow) and you get one hell of an ambitious debut!
Yup! For a while there, I was sure this would be a film that would grace my Top 10 of 2015 but as the end credits rolled there were a couple of things that didn't sit well with me. For starters, there was lots of bold ideas but the flick didn't run far enough with them. The "shells" thing is an ideal example of that. I loved the concept but alas it was only skimmed over. It was as-if the narrative had too much to say therefore it rushed through some of its elements. Which brings me to this one's biggest sin; its last act. After an hour or so of building up two adjacent story-lines and involving me emotionally, the film went on to conclude in a hurried manner i.e. the pay-offs weren't strong enough. Now word has it that 11 minutes of run time were shaved off when this one was put out there for the masses, maybe that has something to do with it, maybe not. Either way, the final act needed to take its time more and delve further into its denouements (I know, big word there) to fully deliver for this jack-ass.
On the whole though LOST RIVER made for a stimulating and moody sit-down. I'll take ambitious that misses a couple of steps over perfect and "safe" any day! Gosling has a great eye and I hope he directs again! Now you gonna take a trip down this river or what?