A couple of weeks ago, Russell Crowe took to the director’s chair for the first time with the top-safe-for-its-own-good adaptation of The Water Diviner. This week sees the release of another directorial debut from Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Gosling, who brings us Lost River, a film which seems to have the completely opposite problem to Crowe’s. Gosling, who writes the film as well, has created a visually bold piece of work with Lost River; yet it’s far too wrapped up in its own weirdness, which makes it a really hard film to enjoy.
Reality and fantasy are constantly colliding in the film. There are some scenes where Gosling seems to hold back from any manipulation. In these moments, there are subtle glances to camera, the performers who feel like they were just plucked from the street. There’s a real documentary in these scenes, as characters look on at the wreckage of their hometown, which has been destroyed by some kind of economic, or natural disaster. However, the film often drifts into a state of surreal strangeness, as we’re introduced to a neon world of perverseness, when one of the characters gets a job at an underground club, to ensure the safety of her home. Add to the mix a man with no lips, a creepy, spectral grandmother, and an underwater utopia; and it’s a recipe for total weirdness.
The issue with Lost River is that the reality and fantasy don’t sit together well. It’s an uncomfortable watch too, but the main problem the film has is that’s it’s as dull as dishwater. The only redeeming aspect is the fantastic photography from Benoît Debie, which at least makes the film visually engaging. It is all surface, not much substance though, and leaves the impression of pretensiousness masquerading as art. In a way I admire Gosling for trying something different, but I can’t forgive him for the sheer tedium I experienced during the film. I haven’t seen many bad films this year, but this is easily one of the worst I’ve seen so far.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com