‘Lost River’ Review

From contributing writer Stephanie Brandhuber

Dear Ryan Gosling,

You sweet, beautiful, master of brooding, why have you forsaken me? To be completely frank, your movie was awful. To call it a movie is even a stretch since all I saw was an exercise in pretension and a vacuous attempt to project your refined aura of “cool”. Directionless, empty, and completely lacking in narrative substance, the only thing your film left me thinking was why Ryan, why?

Right, so let me just get this straight. Your film is a dark, noir-esque fairy tale about single mother of two, Billy (Christina Hendricks), who, in an attempt to get enough money to save her childhood home and keep her family together, agrees to a job performing at a macabre burlesque club owned by Dave (Ben Mendelsohn), the repugnant bank manager. Meanwhile Billy’s son Bones (Iain De Caestecker) is on the run from the town thug Bully (Matt Smith) and befriends his next-door neighbour Rat (Saoirse Ronan) who looks after her Miss Havisham-esque grandmother. Bones tries his best to free his town from the fog of bleakness that surrounds it by rescuing a lost object from the bottom of the river that covers an old neighbouring town.


Ok, I get it. You were attempting to portray urban decay and a dystopian vision of society’s neglect of impoverished America. You veiled your depiction in a dreamlike hipster-cloak of artistic affectation and it really did seem like you said to yourself, “meh, who needs a well-constructed narrative or fully-developed characters when I can use my purple filter and twist a camera sideways?”. No Ryan, no. The sad thing is, you had all the ingredients to potentially have made a great film. You had at your disposal an arsenal of unbelievably talented actors but even they couldn’t mask the fact that the characters you crafted for them were nothing but empty shells, beautiful but transparent props against your highly stylised, over-saturated backdrop.

Christina Hendricks tried her best to breathe life into an otherwise lifeless character, but even she failed to make me care about her in any way at all. The same may be sadly said of the other cast members too. Matt Smith played an unconvincing and motivationless thug whose disco-ball bomber jacket wasn’t even distracting enough to deter me from noticing his character’s utter pointlessness. Perhaps the only character who came close to being worth investing a modicum of interest in was Ben Mendelsohn’s character Dave, whose creepy demeanour was at least minimally affecting and whose surreal Beau Travail-esque dance at the end of the film was arguably the only truly delightful moment during this artistic wankfest.


Ryan, babe, no one can deny that you were great in Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn’s beautifully crafted film jacked up on 10 000 megawatts of cool. Visually and narratively impacting, Drive took aesthetic hip-ness to a whole new level, and watching your directorial debut Lost River, Ryan, you clearly wanted to prove that you were one of the cool kids by copycatting your favourite directors. Whilst it’s great that you took inspiration from cinema greats Refn, Malick, and Lynch, you pushed pastiche too far and ended up with an end product that lacks not only originality but also cohesion. While many of the shots in your film are arrestingly beautiful (and, why shouldn’t they be, you got master cinematographer Benoit Debie to be your director of photography), these beautiful portraits of movement and colour become limp and impactless, hanging in the limbo-void of a virtually plotless and certainly pointless film.

So Ryan, in summary, I had such high hopes for your debut film. I know this was your first try, but seriously man, you really missed the mark on this one. You had so many great elements, but simply failed to use them to their full potential. Your attempt at a social critique on poverty had about as much impact as an Instagrammed photo of a homeless person and crucially, you failed to make me care about anything or anyone in your film. Beautiful but overly-crafted, striking, but completely pointless, at least your poor attempt at filmmaking was bad enough that no one really wanted to watch it and hopefully, with any luck, no one will remember it.

 Yours truly,

 A disappointed Gosling girl

1.5 Stars (1.5 / 5)

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(Photos copyright: Bold Films, Marc Platt Productions, Phantasma

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