Many actors, after spending a good number of years in the film industry, take their ambition and creativity and choose to put these efforts into directing, writing, or both. Occasionally they succeed, but in most cases, we find that their talents are better used in their former profession. And unfortunately, first-time writer and director Ryan Gosling gives us Lost River, throws in several different directing and artistic choices, but the film isn’t coherent and leaves our attention wandering.
After an entire town has been flooded, a little known place called Lost River emerges, clouded by darkness. People’s houses are being set on fire, there’s a dark mystery surrounding the town, and in the middle of it lies Billy (Christina Hendricks), a single mother of two who is trying to make ends meet after finding out that she might lose her house and childhood home. On the other side, her son Bones (Iain De Caestecker) is drawn into the origins and mystery surrounding the town, which includes a town underwater.
Gosling’s film is dark, border-line horror dark. There are times when it feels like Only God Forgives (the movie Gosling speaks around 7 lines) and is almost as bad. There’s barely any dialogue except to explain a few things here and there and there are far too many characters that go without any hint of development. Gosling tends to overuse the aspects of fantasy and Gothic drama to create a mysterious and darkly thrilling atmosphere, but it’s too all over the place to do even that properly.
This is not to say that the film doesn’t look good, because it does. There are scenes that are cinematography gold and clearly apparent where Gosling put his efforts. You can tell he’s been heavily influenced by director Nicolas Winding Refn, but also in this influence is the lack of a developed story and more of a focus on visuals, which ultimately proves to be tiresome and uninteresting. To understand Lost River however, it takes a different kind of viewer and upon first watch (and last because I won’t be watching it again) the film is a jumbled mess.
From the story and script, to pacing, to characters, the film is incoherent in every sense of the word. There is a random dance scene that comes out of nowhere and only works in adding to the film’s absurdity. Matt Smith yells a lot, Saoirse Ronan spouts on about an evil curse, and Eva Mendes gets stabbed a lot during her onstage act (the stabbing is fake). All this to tell us that there’s something amiss in this lost river town. Sadly, there’s never any gratification we receive from watching this slow-paced, mess of a film that’s a waste of time as well as a waste of talent. Gosling tries, and while the film can be visually appealing, perhaps his talents are better used somewhere else.